Former Memphis Police Officer Pleads Guilty in Brutal Beating Case
First Guilty Plea in Federal Charges
Desmond Mills Jr., one of five former Memphis police officers charged in connection with the brutal beating and death of Tyre Nichols, pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to two felony charges of obstruction of justice and excessive force.
This marks the first guilty plea among the five officers indicted on federal charges. Mills has entered into a plea deal with federal prosecutors and will cooperate with a separate state case against the officers, including charges of second-degree murder.
Cooperation and Potential Testimony
Mills’ cooperation is expected to involve pleading guilty to some of the state charges and potentially testifying against the other officers. This cooperation has been recommended by the prosecutors.
Recommended Prison Sentence
Prosecutors have recommended a 15-year prison sentence for Mills. In contrast, the remaining four officers have pleaded not guilty to both federal and state charges.
Background of the Case
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was driving home from work when he was stopped by the police. He died a few days later due to the violent encounter. The five Black officers from the department’s elite Scorpion unit, including Mills, were fired for their involvement in the beating.
Memphis officials took immediate action following the release of street and body camera footage that horrified the nation. They fired and disciplined multiple police and emergency personnel, and disbanded the specialized police force known for its history of excessive force and intimidation.
Charges Against Mills
Mills was indicted on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, which can lead to a life sentence, for unlawfully assaulting Nichols and neglecting to provide medical aid. He also faces two counts of obstruction and witness tampering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Guilty Plea Details
In a Memphis courtroom, Mills pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for excessive force and failing to intervene, as well as one count of witness tampering for conspiring to lie about the violence.
Mills is scheduled to be sentenced in May. His attorney, Blake Ballin, has stated that Mills acknowledges his wrongdoing and is taking responsibility for it.
Cooperation and Systemic Issues
As part of the plea deal, Mills is expected to cooperate with all open investigations. This cooperation can help shed light on systemic issues within the Memphis Police Department, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.
Consequences and Lawsuit
Mills has been permanently barred from working in Tennessee law enforcement. Additionally, he faces a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Nichols’s family against the officers, the city of Memphis, and the Memphis police chief.
Attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family, believes that Mills’ guilty plea is just the beginning and expects further accountability.
Violent Encounter and Investigation
Street and body camera footage reveals the escalating violence during the encounter with Nichols, though the reason for the initial stop remains unclear. Nichols, who did not initially resist, eventually fled and was pursued by the officers.
In court documents, prosecutors stated that Mills did not intervene when the other officers continued to assault Nichols. He also failed to provide medical aid and participated in falsely claiming that Nichols was high and resisting arrest. Mills removed his body camera and lied in official police reports to cover up the unlawful force used.
Upcoming Federal Trial
The federal criminal trial is set to commence in May. Lawyers for the Justice Department and the charged officers are currently disputing a request to review the contents of Nichols’s cellphone.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-11-02 19:11:39
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