Officers case delayed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 2010

NATCHEZ — The federal criminal trial of two Natchez police officers accused of civil rights violations has been continued until Feb. 22.

The original trial date was Monday at the federal courthouse in Natchez for Elvis Prater, 35, and Dewayne Johnson, 32.

Prater’s lawyer requested a continuance on the grounds that discovery materials he received Aug. 20 were “extensive and require significant time to review,” according to a court document.

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Johnson requested a continuance because his lawyer was unavailable to properly prepare for his case. Johnson’s lawyer was previously scheduled to attend a trial in Washington County in September, which detained him for three weeks.

Both defendants waived their right to a speedy trial.

The order said under the circumstances, failure to grant a continuance would “result in a miscarriage of justice.”

The order also said the trial is continued until February because the prosecutors were unable to attend court in December.

Prater and Johnson were indicted Aug. 20 on charges of civil rights violations and making false statements. Johnson was also indicted on one count of conspiracy. They were released on their own recognizance.

Both men face two counts of civil rights violations for the alleged May 2009 beating of two men they had reportedly arrested.

Prater faces one count of making false statements to federal investigators; Johnson faces two counts of the same charge.

Johnson also faces one count of conspiracy that alleges he stole credit and debit cards from the arrested man, obtained the PIN for the cards from the victim and called a relative to meet him at a store. Johnson reportedly told Patricia Wilson to use one of the cards to make purchases, including beer for a party he was planning.

Police Chief Mike Mullins said Friday Prater and Johnson will remain on paid administrative leave until the outcome of the trial.