The Justice Department announced today that former Mississippi correctional officer Deonte Pate, 23, pleaded guilty today to helping conceal the beating of an inmate.
Pate admitted to conspiring to cover up a beating carried out by two other officers, who were also charged for their roles in the incident. Pate acknowledged that he submitted false reports and lied to the FBI in order to prevent knowledge of the beating from reaching outside authorities. He was charged in June with officers Lawardrick Marsher, 28, and Robert Sturdivant, 47. All three were officers at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.
The indictment charged Marsher and Sturdivant with kicking, punching and throwing the victim to the ground. The indictment also alleges that their actions involved the use of a dangerous weapon and resulted in bodily injury to the victim.
“In the closed prison environment, we rely on corrections officers to protect the safety and well-being of inmates,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When officers abuse inmates – or in this case lie to cover up abuse – their actions offend the law and undermine the integrity of our justice system.”
“The defendant abused his authority, violated the law and the public trust,” said U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams of the Northern District of Mississippi. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi is committed to aggressively prosecuting those correctional officers who break the law and violate an individual’s constitutional rights.”
“Public servants should be held to a higher standard, especially those tasked with maintaining order and watching over our prisons,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Jackson Division. “When corrections officers violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect, the entire system suffers the consequences. We appreciate the long standing relationships with our local, state and federal partners that aided in this investigation.”
Pate faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for March 16, 2017. The charges against Marsher and Sturdivant are still pending and trial is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2017.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Jackson Division, with the cooperation of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Coleman of the Northern District of Mississippi and Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.