Officers on trial Tuesday

Published 12:10 am Friday, February 18, 2011

NATCHEZ — Federal Judge David Bramlette has refused to grant separate trials for two Natchez police officers accused of civil rights violations.

NPD officers Dewayne Johnson and Elvis Prater are scheduled to stand trial Tuesday in the Mississippi Southern Federal District Court on Pearl Street.

A federal public defender requested in a motion on behalf of Prater that his case be severed from Johnson’s case because Prater was not indicted — as Johnson was — for credit card theft and fraud.

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Prater said trying the cases together would be “catastrophically and unfairly prejudiced” against his defense because the jury would find Prater guilty by association based on evidence of fraud against Johnson.

Bramlette signed an order denying Prater’s request for severance because Prater failed to use legal citations and specific evidence in his reasoning. Bramlette said the officers were working together as NPD officers and arrested the victims at the same time, so there was no question that defendants are “alleged to have participated in the same series of acts,” which merits a joint trial, according to the order.

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 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.

Prater and Johnson have been on unpaid administrative leave since October until the outcome of the trial.