In the previous guilty pleas, jailers confessed to participating in about 100 beatings. Friday, assistant U.S. Attorney John Richmond would only say William Priest was linked to numerous assaults against inmates.
Priest spent six years in the Marine Corps. The last two-and-a-half years, he was a correctional officer at the Harrison County jail. And during that time, the 34-year-old broke the law.
"I don't have any comment sir," the defendant said as he walked out of the federal courthouse on a $25,000 bond.
Moments earlier, assistant U.S. Attorney John Richmond stood in front of Chief Magistrate Louis Guirola and read the information investigators collected against Priest. Between August 1, 2004 and January 28, 2006, Richmond said Priest participated in numerous inmate beatings. And according to assistant U.S. Attorney, the defendant willfully assaulted inmates even though he knew physical force was "unnecessary and unjustified."
The defendant's court appointed attorney was Doyle Coats.
"Apparently it was pretty bad back when all this started," Coats said. "Apparently it started at some point in early 2000."
This investigation started nearly a year ago. It originally focused on jailers who were reportedly present the night Jesse Lee Williams was beaten and eventually died. But as the last three guilty pleas have proven, the case has expanded to target jailers like Priest who assaulted dozens of inmates in Harrison County's custody.
"That's just a case of where a man with an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps and a clean record hires out there and does what he was told to do and winds up pleading guilty up here to a charge," the defendant's attorney said.
By agreeing to a plea bargain, Priest will likely serve on a fraction of a potential 10 year prison term. His sentencing date is April 19th.
Until his guilty plea, Priest was on administrative leave from the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.