US 'Goon Squad' get prison terms of 10 to 40 years

A federal judge in Mississippi has wrapped up the sentencing of six white former law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to the torture of two Black man, giving the defendants prison terms ranging from 10 to 40 years.

The six men, who called themselves 'the Goon squad' still face sentencing on state charges for their roles in the home-invasion assault, which has stood out among dozens of racially charged US police misconduct cases in recent years for the chilling nature of its brutality.

The two victims, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, were handcuffed, stripped naked, beaten, sexually assaulted and subjected to electric Taser shocks and waterboarding as the officers screamed racial slurs at them, according to accounts filed by prosecutors in the case.

The two-hour ordeal in January 2023 began when the six officers stormed into the house without a warrant, ostensibly looking for illegal drugs, and ended in a mock execution that left Jenkins gravely wounded from a gunshot to the mouth, court records showed.

All but one of the officers were members of the Rankin County Sheriff's Office.

"The depravity of the crimes committed by these defendants cannot be overstated," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the penalties imposed.

Brett McAlpin, 53, former chief investigator for the sheriff's department, was sentenced on Thursday to more than 27 years in prison. Later in the day, US District Judge Tom Lee imposed a 10-year sentence on the final defendant, Joshua Hartfield, 32, a former narcotics investigator from the police force in Richland, Mississippi.

Christian Dedmon, 29, a former narcotics detective who prosecutors considered a ringleader of the January raid, received the toughest prison term of the group, 40 years, when sentenced on Wednesday. Hunter Elward, 31, who fired the gunshot that wounded Jenkins, was given 20 years on Tuesday.

Jeffrey Middleton, a sheriff's lieutenant at the time of the raid, and Daniel Opdyke, 28, were each sentenced to 17 and a half years during the week.

According to federal prosecutors, the six defendants barged into the house where the victims were staying in Braxton, Mississippi, on Jan. 24, 2023, after the sheriff's office had received a complaint from a white neighbour that they had seen "suspicious behaviour" from the Black men living there.

Upon entering the home without warning or probable cause, the officers detained Jenkins and Parker, demanding to know "where the drugs were," court documents said.

After he and his cohorts had subjected their victims to nearly two hours of torture, Elward shoved the barrel of a gun into Jenkins' mouth, unaware that a bullet was in the chamber and pulled the trigger, firing a gunshot that shattered Jenkins' jaw and lacerated his tongue.

Rather than render medical aid as Jenkins lay bleeding on the floor, the officers reassembled outside to devise a cover story. They left a gun at the scene, destroyed surveillance video, tried to burn the victims' clothes and planted illegal drugs in the house.

The US Justice Department opened a federal investigation of the case in February 2023. Jenkins and Parker filed a $400 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County last June.