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US ex-cop jailed for 40 years over racist attack

A former Mississippi sheriff's deputy has been sentenced to 40 years in jail for his part in the racist torture of two Black men by a group of white officers, who called themselves 'the goon squad'.

Christian Dedmon, 29, did not look at the victims as he apologised and said he'd never forgive himself for the pain he caused.

All six former officers charged in the case pleaded guilty last year, admitting that they subjected Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker to numerous acts of racist torture in January 2023 after a neighbour complained the men were staying in a home with a white woman. 

Jenkins, who still has trouble speaking due to his injuries, said in a statement read by his lawyer that Dedmon's actions were the most depraved of any of those who attacked him.

"Deputy Dedmon is the worst example of a police officer in the United States," Jenkins said. "Deputy Dedmon was the most aggressive, sickest and the most wicked."

Hours earlier, former officer Daniel Opdyke, 28, cried profusely as he spoke before the judge announced his sentence of 17.5 years. Turning to look at the two victims, Opdyke said isolation behind bars has given him time to reflect on "how I transformed into the monster I became that night." 

On Tuesday, US District Judge Tom Lee gave a nearly 20-year prison sentence to Hunter Elward, 31, and a 17.5-year sentence to Jeffrey Middleton, 46, calling their actions "egregious and despicable." They, like Opdyke and Dedmon, were Rankin County sheriff's deputies at the time of the attack.

Another former deputy, Brett McAlpin, 53, and a former Richland police officer, Joshua Hartfield, 32, are set for sentencing on Thursday.

Last March, months before federal prosecutors announced charges in August, an investigation by The Associated Press linked some of the deputies to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.

The former officers stuck to their cover story for months until finally admitting that they tortured Jenkins and Parker with a stun gun, a sex toy and other objects.

Elward admitted to shoving a gun into Jenkins' mouth and firing it in a "mock execution" that went awry.

After Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, lacerating his tongue and breaking his jaw, they devised a coverup that included planting drugs and a gun. False charges stood against Jenkins and Parker for months.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who took office in 2012 and was reelected in November after no one ran against him, revealed no details about his deputies' actions when he announced they had been fired last June. 

After they pleaded guilty in August, Bailey said the officers had gone rogue and promised changes. Jenkins and Parker called for his resignation and filed a $400 million civil lawsuit against the department.

Michael Goldberg and Emily Wagster Pettus - AAP

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