Home News Goon Squad Officer Gets 40-Year Sentence for ‘Shocking, Brutal’ Acts

Goon Squad Officer Gets 40-Year Sentence for ‘Shocking, Brutal’ Acts

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Goon Squad Officer Gets 40-Year Sentence for ‘Shocking, Brutal’ Acts

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A former sheriff’s deputy who subjected Mississippi residents to physical and sexual assaults was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in federal prison.

The officer, Christian Dedmon, was associated with a group of law enforcement officers that terrorized Rankin County and called itself the “Goon Squad.”

During the hearing, Judge Tom Lee of U.S. District Court said that while Mr. Dedmon was not the most senior officer facing prison time, his actions were “the most shocking, brutal and cruel acts imaginable.”

Daniel Opdyke, a member of the squad, was also sentenced Wednesday. Mr. Opdyke received almost 18 years in prison. His attorneys said he had played a smaller role in the abuse.

Earlier in the week, two other group members, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, were sentenced to 20 years and almost 18 years. Mr. Elward had shot one of the victims in the mouth; Mr. Middleton was a lieutenant who supervised the group.

Two more squad members are expected to receive sentences Thursday. All six pleaded guilty to state and federal charges last year.

An investigation by the Justice Department found the former officers, most of whom worked for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office, beat and tortured two Black men during a warrantless raid of their home last year.

The deputies showed up after the department’s former chief investigator, Brett McAlpin, received a tip that Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker were involved in suspicious activity. The officers burst inside, shocked Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker with Tasers and abused them with a sex toy, the investigation found.

Mr. Dedmon, 28, played a prominent role in the assault, prosecutors said. He slapped Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker with the sex toy, tried to shove it in their mouths and threatened to rape them.

Mr. Dedmon also beat and sexually assaulted a white man, Alan Schmidt, during a December 2022 traffic stop, according to an interview with Mr. Schmidt and statements from prosecutors. Mr. Schmidt told The New York Times and Mississippi Today that Mr. Dedmon threatened to kill him and dump his body in the Pearl River while Mr. Opdyke and Mr. Elward watched.

During that incident, Mr. Dedmon fired his gun into the air, then punched Mr. Schmidt and shocked him with a Taser, Mr. Schmidt recalled. He also pressed his genitals against Mr. Schmidt’s mouth and bare buttocks while Mr. Schmidt was handcuffed.

“I pray to God for these officers’ souls to be healed of the evil within that caused them to commit these acts,” Mr. Schmidt wrote in a victim impact statement read by prosecutors Wednesday. “I know that I am not their only victim.”

In court, Mr. Dedmon denied sexually assaulting Mr. Schmidt, but apologized for his conduct. “Instead of doing the right thing, I chose to show off,” he said. “If I could take every bit of it back, I promise I would.”

A culture of misconduct reigned at the sheriff’s office, Mr. Dedmon said, and he rose the ranks to become the department’s youngest investigator because of his willingness “to do bad things.”

Prosecutors told the judge that according to a memorandum on their investigation that is still under seal, Mr. Dedmon had been involved in other similar episodes.

Mr. Opdyke’s lawyers had asked the judge to sentence their client to seven years in prison, 10 years less than the maximum.

They made the case that Mr. Opdyke, 27, deserved lenience because he was the youngest and least-experienced deputy in the Goon Squad and had committed the fewest acts of abuse during both cases. They also said Mr. Opdyke, who was neglected and abused as a child, saw the group leader Mr. McAlpin as a father figure and followed him “right or wrong, without question.”

“It was not until he got indoctrinated into the Goon Squad cult that he briefly became a person that nobody recognized,” Jeffery Reynolds, one of Mr. Opdyke’s lawyers, said.

Mr. Opdyke accepted responsibility for his actions and read an apology. “I swore to protect you,” he said, facing Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker. “But when it came to action I was a coward, and I failed to do it.”

As he spoke, Mr. Parker walked out of the courtroom. “That apology was only because he got caught,” Mr. Parker later said.

Local activists said they hoped the sentences were the beginning of a long process that would hold law enforcement officers accountable for decades of abuses. They renewed their calls for Sheriff Bryan Bailey of Rankin County to be criminally charged.

“The only missing defendant is Bryan Bailey,” Malik Shabazz, a lawyer representing Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker, said. “The sheriff created this culture and climate.”

Mr. Bailey, who has not attended any of the hearings so far this week, did not respond to requests for comment.

An investigation by Mississippi Today and The New York Times last year exposed a decades-long reign of terror by nearly two dozen Rankin County deputies.

More than 20 people said they were tortured during warrantless raids and violent interrogations by deputies, most of whom have not yet been charged with a crime and some of whom still work for the sheriff’s department.

Justice Department representatives have so far declined to say whether federal prosecutors will pursue additional charges related to abuses by Rankin County deputies.

The Rankin County district attorney’s office recently confirmed it was reviewing and dismissing criminal cases involving Goon Squad members. District Attorney Bubba Bramlett has so far declined to share which cases have been dismissed or how far back in time his review will go.

Last week, the Mississippi House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would expand oversight over the state’s law enforcement, allowing the state board that certifies officers to investigate and revoke the licenses of officers accused of misconduct, regardless of whether they are criminally charged.

The State Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.

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