Nine Harrison Co. jailers face sentencing

Published 12:42 am Monday, November 5, 2007

GULFPORT (AP) — Sentencing is scheduled for today for nine former correction officers who pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to the abuse of inmates at the Harrison County jail.

The jailers pleaded guilty and cooperated with federal prosecutors during a sweeping investigation prompted by allegations of abuse and the beating death of an inmate. U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. imposed a life prison sentence last week for the only jailer involved who was found guilty by a jury.

The investigation unfolded over 21 months after inmate Jessie Lee Williams died from a brutal beating in the jail’s booking room in February 2006. Former Sgt. Ryan Teel was sentenced to life on charges including conspiracy, second-degree murder and making false statements.

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Regina Rhodes, who helped assault Williams, was the first guard to come forward about the abuses at the jail. In her plea agreement, she claimed that a pattern of abuse existed at the jail for several years. Teel was arrested three weeks later.

Rhodes is the only other ex-jailer accused criminally in the Williams incident. The others were charged in other abuses.

Former Sheriff’s Capt. Rick Gaston, who was in charge of the booking room, stood trial with Teel in August but was found not guilty.

Daniel Evans, Karle Stolze, Brodrick Fulton, Dedri Caldwell, Morgan Thompson, Jeffery Priest, Preston Wills and Timothy Moore all pleaded guilty.

Maximum penalties range from 10 to 20 years when they are sentenced Monday. However, they could be given less time for cooperating in the investigation.

Harrison County jail warden Don Cabana, who was brought in to straighten out the mess at the jail, said the former jailers will be the targets of other inmates in prison.


Information from: The Sun Herald,