Feds investigation apparently not over - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Harrison County Jail Abuse Probe

Feds investigation apparently not over

The federal government's investigation

into inmate abuse at the Harrison County jail apparently is not

over.

Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola

Jr. to seal the exhibits from the recently concluded trial of two

former county jailers - Ryan Teel, who was convicted; and Rick

Gaston, who was acquitted.

Teel was convicted Thursday on three criminal counts, including

a count related to the fatal beating of inmate Jessie Lee Williams

Jr., whose death in February 2006 led to the federal trial.

Guirola was about to release a copy of the videotaped beating of

Williams to the Sun Herald newspaper when Assistant U.S. Attorney

John Richmond asked him to seal the exhibits. Richmond said there

may be other indictments.

Guirola told Richmond to file a motion to state why the exhibits

should not be made public.

Resolution of the trial sets the stage for sentencing Teel and

the eight former jailers who accepted plea agreements. Four of the

eight testified at the nine-day trial. Some of them and others gave

damaging statements about current and former jail employees,

raising the question of who else might be charged.

Teel, held without bond, will be sentenced Nov. 1. He faces two

life sentences and up to 10 years for conviction on three counts.

Those with plea bargains face penalties of 10 to 20 years, but

could receive less time based, in part, on their cooperation with

the investigation.

The eight who pleaded guilty within a span of one year have

remained free on bond.

On Friday, Guirola set their sentencing for Nov. 5.

Regina Rhodes was among four with plea bargains to testify and

was the first to come forward in August 2006. Daniel Evans and Karl

Stolze were set for trial with Teel and Gaston, but changed their

pleas a week before the trial.

The others who await sentencing are Dedri Caldwell, Morgan

Thompson, Jeffery Priest, Preston Wills and Timothy Moore. Priest,

Thompson and Moore also testified at trial.

They face no further federal charges and won't be prosecuted on

state charges if they live up to their bargains to assist the

investigation.

District Attorney Cono Caranna said Friday that turning the case

over to federal prosecutors has produced satisfying results.

"The two prosecutors from Washington are able to work this case

24-7," Caranna said, "and having the laws that most directly

address the facts of the case, have demonstrated a high level of

professionalism, competence and judgment.

"We will continue to work with them and allow them to use this

proven method to see to it that every bad actor at the jail is

taken out."

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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