JACKSON, MISS. (AP) — A federal judge has postponed sentencing for six former Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to a long list of federal charges for torturing two Black men in January.
Sentencing had been scheduled to begin Nov. 14, but U.S. District Judge Tom Lee wrote in a Friday order that the court would delay it in response to motions from some of the former officers. Their attorneys said they needed more time to evaluate presentencing reports and prepare objections, the judge said.
Lee has not yet rescheduled the sentencing hearing, but some of the former officers requested it be delayed until Dec. 15.
The men admitted in August to subjecting Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker to numerous acts of racially motivated, violent torture.
After a neighbor told one of the former officers that the two were staying at a home in Braxton with a white woman, he assembled a group of five other officers. They burst into the home without a warrant and assaulted Jenkins and Parker with stun guns, a sex toy and other objects, prosecutors said in court, reading a lengthy description of the abuse.
The officers taunted the men with racial slurs and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces. After a mock execution went awry and Jenkins was shot in the mouth, they devised a coverup that included planting drugs and a gun. False charges stood against Jenkins and Parker for months.
The conspiracy unraveled after one officer told the sheriff he had lied, leading to confessions from the others.
Former Rankin County sheriff's Deputies Brett McAlpin, Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland city police Officer Joshua Hartfield, who was off duty during the assault, pleaded guilty to numerous federal and state charges including assault, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The charges followed an investigation by The Associated Press that linked some of the deputies to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.
In a statement to AP on Tuesday, attorney Malik Shabazz said he hoped the sentencing will happen soon.
"Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker are urging that the sentencing for the 'Goon Squad' members ... take place as quickly as possible," Shabazz said. "We are urging justice for Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker in every way."
Prosecutors say some of the officers called themselves the "Goon Squad" for of their willingness to use excessive force and cover up attacks.
They agreed to prosecutor-recommended sentences ranging from five to 30 years, although the judge isn't bound by that. Time served for separate convictions at the state level will run concurrently with the potentially longer federal sentences.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.