Ellard brothers may be sentenced in October

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NATCHEZ — After two years of court proceedings and dealings with the FBI from the victim’s side of things, the Ellard brothers will face Judge Forest “Al” Johnson, possibly in October, to be handed their own sentences.

Jason and James Daniel Ellard were charged in May 2009 with simple assault of a law enforcement officer — a felony — after exchanging punches with Natchez Police Officer Elvis Prater outside a Main Street bar.

Both brothers pleaded guilty to simple assault — a misdemeanor — in November 2010.

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The brothers, who claimed an NPD officer beat them up in a patrol car following their arrests, testified about the beatings in the week-long trial of the officers in February and March.

Both admitted on the stand they fought with Prater on the street, prior to the alleged beatings. Prater was acquitted in March of beating Daniel, who apparently suffered less severe injuries, and was acquitted in May of beating Jason, who was hospitalized for his injuries. A second trial was conducted after the jury returned only two of eight counts in the first trial.

The brothers and Prater testified in the first trial they all began to fight when Prater tried to place Daniel under arrest for not leaving the area shortly after an unrelated bar fight broke out inside Dimples Lounge. The brothers, who both admitted they were drunk at the time of the May incident, said Daniel refused to leave when asked because he was waiting for Jason.

Daniel and Prater then began fighting, and Jason apparently grabbed or jumped on Prater’s back when Jason saw him fighting Daniel.

District Attorney Ronnie Harper said his office chose to negotiate a plea offer dropping the charge to a misdemeanor after consulting with Prater, the victim of the attacks on Main Street.

“After consultation with the victim and based in large part on (Prater’s) wishes, we resolved it in that matter,” Harper said.

Harper said Judge Johnson delayed the Ellard’s sentencing until the federal criminal case against the NPD officers became resolved.

The lawyer representing Prater in a civil suit Jason filed against him and the City of Natchez recently requested that Harper set a sentencing date in the simple assault case against the Ellards.

“As you know, the federal criminal trial involving charges of civil rights violations by Mr. Elvis Prater has been concluded with an acquittal on all counts. My client, the victim in the above-mentioned cases involving Jason Ellard and Daniel Ellard, wishes to put the criminal matters behind him as expeditiously as possible,” Prater’s attorney Eileen Maher said in the letter, which was filed Aug. 30.

Jason’s attorney, Jeremy Diamond, said the judge recently gave him a list of dates in September and October to schedule his client’s sentencing hearing.

Since Jason lives on the Gulf Coast, Diamond said, and because of the nature of his job demands, he will likely be unable to schedule the hearing before the end of this month.

Calls to Daniel’s lawyer, Pamela Ferrington, went unreturned.

Prater was acquitted of all charges U.S. prosecutors alleged he committed against the Ellards. Former Officer Dewayne Johnson, Prater’s former co-defendant, received a sentence Sept. 14 of 2.5 years in prison for violating Jason’s civil rights by stealing his credit cards the night of the incident and conspiring to use them.

Federal Magistrate Judge John Roper recently ruled July 29 to reopen the Ellard’s civil case against Prater, Johnson and the City of Nathcez after placing it on hold for discovery purposes during criminal proceedings.