Continuance Granted In Jail Abuse Trial

Motions were heard in federal court Tuesday in the case against Ryan Teel and three others charged in connection with alleged abuse at the Harrison County jail.

A federal judge agreed to postpone the trial from May 29th until August 6th, but a motion for a change of venue remains undecided.

Teel arrived at court with his wife and his defense attorney, Jim Davis. Joining him at the hearing was defendant Rick Gaston, a former warden at the Harrison County jail; defendant and former jailer Karl Stolze, who tried hiding his face with an umbrella; and defendant and former jailer Daniel Evans.

The change of venue request was divided. Teel and Stolze want the trial moved; Gaston and Evans do not.

"I think the change of venue is very important. And you can see there are issues. 'Cause we had some defendants who wanted a change of venue and some that don't. So, that's a very interesting legal issue the judges are perplexed about. 'Cause most of the time all the defendants join is or all don't. So, this case is kind of rare," said Jim Davis, the attorney for Ryan Teel.

Evans' attorney says his reasons for wanting the trial here are simple.

"Well, his family and friends, support group is all here in Harrison County," said Cecil Woods, explaining why his client wants the trial to remain in Gulfport, "I believe it would be to his advantage to do so, because everybody knows him here."

Judge Louis Guirola also ruled the four will be tried together. Teel's attorney wanted a separate trial, saying he feared the others would put all the blame on Teel.

"That is, that could happen, yes," said Davis after the hearing, "I think you just have to look at the case and the way it stands right now. There's always that chance."

In granting the continuance and moving the trial from May 29th until August 6th, Judge Guirola said while it's important the case be moved expeditiously, he said it's even more important the defendants are allowed enough time to mount an adequate defense.

The judge added, only the rarest of circumstances would convince him to reschedule the trial even one day later.

The pre trial conference was set for June 26th.

A motion was also heard on the civil side. Attorney Michael Crosby, who represents the estate of the late Jessie Lee Williams, sought permission to move forward with a civil lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Williams' family.

Magistrate John Roper granted the request to allow the civil proceedings to move forward.

"The main thing we were trying to get was a lifting of the stay, or to allow us to proceed with some discovery in the case. And that's exactly what we got.  We're extremely pleased that the judge has allowed us to begin the discovery process," said Crosby.

A tentative date for the civil lawsuit trial was set for August 11th of next year.