Former Jailer Pleads Guilty, Says Inmate Abuse Is "Encouraged" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Former Jailer Pleads Guilty, Says Inmate Abuse Is "Encouraged"

A former Harrison County jailer pleaded guilty Monday to two felony counts related to the beating death of Jessie Lee Williams Jr. Williams was beaten at the Harrison County jail on February 4th and died two days later.

Regina Rhodes pleaded guilty and also entered a plea agreement to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation. U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton called it a "significant day" in a case where the government has been criticized for a slow-moving investigation.

Rhodes, 29, appeared before two federal judges Monday morning, waiving her right to a grand jury indictment, then pleading guilty to two federal felony charges. She admits she participated in the beating of Jessie Lee Williams Jr. The former jailer also says that beating was part of a "pattern of physical abuse of inmates" at the Harrison County Jail.

She pleaded guilty to depriving Williams of his civil rights by taking part in the assault against him. The second count says she covered it up.

"I think the fact that we now have obtained the plea of a jailer, she has pled guilty to two felony counts and has agreed to cooperate. She will of course have a wealth of knowledge about what happened. So, this is a significant development that should speed up the investigation," U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said.

Rhodes told the judge she's being treated for mental illness - including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety attacks. Her attorney says she wants justice done.

"And Regina is here to atone for her involvement in the circumstances involving the unfortunate death of Mr. Williams. She has been cooperating to the extent required to see justice done," attorney Jim Halliday said.

Michael Crosby represents the Williams Family. He says the admissions of abuse at the jail uphold what's alleged in the pending civil lawsuit.

"The only thing that surprised me was that the truth got out this early. I thought we were going to have to fight a lot harder to get the truth out," Crosby said.

District Attorney Cono Caranna defended both the length of the investigation and the decision to proceed through federal court.

"By having them, we have a better law under which to proceed on the prosecution. And we've been willing to pay the price that some have delivered to us for taking that route," Caranna said.

The U.S. Attorney says more charges should be forthcoming.

"We will answer questions about who else may have been involved later, but hopefully sooner rather than later. And her plea and her cooperation will go a long way toward speeding that process up," Lampton said.

Regina Rhodes' allegations about ongoing abuse at the jail are included in the written plea agreement. Along with saying there's a pattern of abuse, she also says jailers were "encouraged" to participate in such behavior.

WLOX News spoke with Harrison County Sheriff George Payne Monday afternoon. He said, "We're continuing to cooperate and assist with this ongoing investigation."

Regina Rhodes will be sentenced October 16th. She faces a maximum 13 years in prison on the two felony counts.

by Steve Phillips

  • NEWSMore>>

  • Gulfport's Matt Luke fulfills a dream to become Ole Miss Head Football Coach

    Gulfport's Matt Luke fulfills a dream to become Ole Miss Head Football Coach

    Tuesday, July 25 2017 12:10 AM EDT2017-07-25 04:10:04 GMT

    The Luke family has been committed to Ole Miss for years.  On Monday Matt Luke met the media in Oxford four days after taking over the head coaching reins from Hugh Freeze.

    More >>

    The Luke family has been committed to Ole Miss for years.  On Monday Matt Luke met the media in Oxford four days after taking over the head coaching reins from Hugh Freeze.

    More >>
  • Matt Luke introduced as Ole Miss interim head coach

    Matt Luke introduced as Ole Miss interim head coach

    Monday, July 24 2017 11:58 PM EDT2017-07-25 03:58:50 GMT
    WLBTWLBT

    14 years as part of the Ole Miss football program as a coach or player has prepared Matt Luke for this opportunity. Admittedly it doesn't come under the circumstances he might've envisioned. But with a Rebel bloodline that runs 3 generations deep, the position fulfills a lifelong dream. "I can truly tell y'all today that this is my dream job," Luke said Monday at his first press conference as Ole Miss interim head coach. "It's a job that I've been preparing my whole li...

    More >>

    14 years as part of the Ole Miss football program as a coach or player has prepared Matt Luke for this opportunity. Admittedly it doesn't come under the circumstances he might've envisioned. But with a Rebel bloodline that runs 3 generations deep, the position fulfills a lifelong dream. "I can truly tell y'all today that this is my dream job," Luke said Monday at his first press conference as Ole Miss interim head coach. "It's a job that I've been preparing my whole li...

    More >>
  • Rain puts Pascagoula's new football turf on the clock

    Rain puts Pascagoula's new football turf on the clock

    Monday, July 24 2017 11:09 PM EDT2017-07-25 03:09:56 GMT
    Rain has slowed down construction crews as they attempt to put a new field turf at War Memorial Stadium (Photo Source: WLOX News Now)Rain has slowed down construction crews as they attempt to put a new field turf at War Memorial Stadium (Photo Source: WLOX News Now)

    The Pascagoula Panthers open the 2017 football season on the road. In fact, their first three games are road contests. That scheduling quirk may give field turf crews just enough time to get War Memorial Stadium ready for the September 8 home opener. The wet weather in South Mississippi is placing quite the burden on construction workers as they attempt to complete stadium renovations. The project was suppose to be finished before the beginning of Pascagoula's football season.

    More >>

    The Pascagoula Panthers open the 2017 football season on the road. In fact, their first three games are road contests. That scheduling quirk may give field turf crews just enough time to get War Memorial Stadium ready for the September 8 home opener. The wet weather in South Mississippi is placing quite the burden on construction workers as they attempt to complete stadium renovations. The project was suppose to be finished before the beginning of Pascagoula's football season.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly