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NPD trial: Guilty, not guilty

NATCHEZ — Two Natchez police officers will stand trial again in June, after a week-long trial and two days of jury deliberations ended Wednesday with a verdict on only two of eight charges.

Elvis Prater was acquitted of count 1, the beating of James Daniel — known as Daniel — Ellard, and officer Dewayne Johnson was found guilty of count 4, the theft of Jason Ellard’s credit cards.

Family and friends of Johnson and Prater, some members of the Ellard family and others filled the wooden pews of the federal courtroom during the long-awaited verdict announcement.

After approximately 40 hours of trial, 21 witness testimonies and three closing arguments, the jury was deadlocked on the remaining six counts, which will be retried starting June 13 with a new jury.

Prater’s attorney, U.S. Public Defender George Lucas, said after the trial that Prater and his attorneys were “disappointed the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the other counts,” but happy Prater was found not guilty of count 1.

Johnson would not comment on the verdict after the trail

Count 1, to which Prater was acquitted, stated in the indictment that Prater, as an NPD officer, unlawfully assaulted Daniel in the head and face, resulting in bodily injury.

Count 4 charged that Johnson committed unlawful seizure and deprived Jason his property without due process of law.

Counts to be retried on June 13 include:

Count 2, which alleges that Prater, as an NPD officer, unlawfully assaulted Jason in the head and face, resulting in bodily injury. Count 2 is a deprivation of the constitutional rights by willfully depriving Jason of the right to be free from unreasonable force by a police officer.

Count 3 alleges that Dewayne Johnson willfully failed to prevent Prater from assaulting Jason while Jason was in his custody, thereby depriving Jason of the right to be free from unreasonable force by a police officer.

Count 5 alleges Johnson conspired with Patricia Wilson and others to commit at least one of the following offenses: identify theft; credit card fraud; or bank fraud.

Count 6 alleged Prater made false statements to the FBI about his whereabouts after he placed Daniel in a holding cell and that he observed Jason’s injuries — a swollen eye and bleeding from the mouth — at the scene of Jason’s arrest.

Count 7 alleges Johnson made false statements to the FBI on June 2, 2009, and June 3, 2009, including: Jason was bleeding and had a swollen eye at the scene of his arrest; Johnson did not take Jason’s credit cards; and that Jason was injured as a result of hitting the pavement after being Tased.

County 8 alleges Johnson made false statements to the FBI Sept. 29, 2009, including: Jason’s injuries were caused falling face first onto the ground and being Tased; that Johnson did not know anything about Jason’s missing credit cards; and that Johnson did not know how Wilson got Jason’s credit card.

The jury foreperson said the jury failed to reach unanimous decisions on the other counts because the jury had “a couple of issues.”

Federal Judge David Bramlette asked the jury if they were “inextricably deadlocked” and unable to agree on verdicts for the other counts with more deliberation, to which the jurors nodded individually in confirmation.

Bramlette allowed Johnson to remain out of jail on his previously set bond of $10,000 because Johnson was neither convicted of a violent offense nor was he a flight risk, Bramlette said.

Johnson will be sentenced on count 4 following the June trial.

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