The federal government's investigation
into inmate abuse at the Harrison County jail apparently is not
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 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
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