NPD officers second trial to begin Monday

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 24, 2011

NATCHEZ — Round two of federal trials against two Natchez police officers is scheduled to begin Monday.

Elvis Prater and Dewayne Johnson are accused of civil rights violations in connection with the May 2009 beating of Jason Ellard outside a Main Street bar.

Both police officers stood trial in late February and early March, but after a week of testimony and two days of deliberations the jury was unable to come to a verdict on four of the six counts.

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At the first trial, Prater was acquitted of the beating of Jason Ellard’s brother, James Daniel — known as Daniel — Ellard, and Johnson was found guilty of stealing Jason Ellard’s credit cards.

In June Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use Jason Ellard’s credit cards.

Johnson also agreed at the 30-minute plea hearing to a statement on the events that transpired the night and days following the incident.

Parts of the statement placed Prater at the scene of the alleged beating of Jason Ellard.

Prosecutors allege Prater beat Jason Ellard in the back of Johnson’s patrol car after both Ellard brothers exchanged blows with Prater outside Dimples Nightclub on Main Street in Natchez.

Sentencing for Johnson is scheduled for Sept. 12. At sentencing, Johnson faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison for participating in the conspiracy and 12 months in prison for the civil rights offense based upon the theft.

Johnson must also pay approximately $300 in restitution to the bank and $350 in other fines.

Johnson faces additional charges this week of allegedly lying to the FBI and failing to protect Jason Ellard while Ellard was in his custody. Prater faces charges that he beat Jason Ellard and lied to the FBI.

A new set of attorneys for the U.S. Government will prosecute the case.

Prater and Johnson will have the same representation at the second trial as the first.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen approved the termination of Johnson at a March 22 meeting at the recommendation of Police Chief Mike Mullins.

Prater remains on unpaid administrative leave until remaining counts are retried.