Lawsuit against NPD officers droppedPublished 12:10am Thursday, July 26, 2012
NATCHEZ — Jason Ellard, who filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Natchez claiming he was beaten by two Natchez police officers outside of Dimples Lounge in May 2009, has dropped the lawsuit.
Jason Ellard, who was hospitalized for injuries sustained during and after an alleged fight he and his brother Daniel had with NPD officers Dewayne Johnson and Elvis Prater outside the bar, filed the lawsuit in June 2010.
The lawsuit alleged that Johnson and Prater used wrongful and excessive force against Ellard. Ellard claims he was beaten with fists and/or Johnson’s or Prater’s flashlights or batons to the point of unconsciousness while lying handcuffed in the backseat of a Natchez police car.
Prater was acquitted in the beating in May 2011 and was reinstated as a Natchez police officer.
Johnson is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio, after being convicted of violating Jason’s civil rights by stealing his credit cards the night of the incident and conspiring to use them.
City Attorney Hyde Carby, who was Ellard’s attorney for the lawsuit, said Ellard decided to drop the case in early April.
Carby said he could not give Ellard’s reasoning behind dismissing the lawsuit because it is protected under attorney-client privilege.
Efforts to reach Ellard were unsuccessful.
Carby was appointed as city attorney July 2, three days after Ellard’s suit was dismissed. Carby said his appointment and Ellard’s lawsuit are completely unrelated, since Ellard decided to dismiss the case in early April.
“From there, it took quite a bit of time… to get it officially dismissed,” Carby said. “The two things are close in time, obviously, but the decisions are unrelated. I wasn’t even approached about becoming city attorney until after the decision to dismiss was made.”
Carby said had Ellard wanted to continue with the lawsuit after Carby was appointed city attorney, he could have withdrawn as Ellard’s attorney, and Ellard could have proceeded with the lawsuit with his other attorney, Eric Stracener of Stracener & Neely.
Jason and Daniel were charged in May 2009 with simple assault of a law enforcement officer — a felony — after exchanging punches with Prater outside a Main Street bar.
Both brothers pleaded guilty to simple assault — a misdemeanor — in November 2010.
The brothers, who claimed an NPD officer beat them up in a patrol car following their arrests, testified about the reported beatings in the week-long trial of the officers in February and March 2011.
Both admitted on the stand they fought with Prater on the street, prior to the alleged beatings. Prater was acquitted in March 2011 of beating Daniel, who apparently suffered less severe injuries, and was acquitted in May 2011 of beating Jason. A second trial was conducted after the jury returned verdicts on only two of eight counts in the first trial.
The brothers and Prater testified in the first trial they all began to fight when Prater tried to place Daniel under arrest for not leaving the area shortly after an unrelated bar fight broke out inside Dimples Lounge. The brothers, who both admitted they were drunk at the time of the May incident, said Daniel refused to leave when asked because he was waiting for Jason.
Daniel and Prater then began fighting, and Jason apparently grabbed or jumped on Prater’s back when Jason saw him fighting Daniel.