A former Harrison County jailer changed his plea to guilty in federal court Monday afternoon.
Daniel Evans admitted his role in abusing and assaulting inmates at the county jail. His change of plea comes just one week before his federal trial was set to begin.
The 26-year-old Evans said "guilty" in a strong, clear voice before federal judge Louis Guirola. He admitted conspiring with others to abuse and assault inmates, then covering up the crime.
Michael Crosby represents the family of Jessie Lee Williams, the man who died after he was beaten at the county jail.
Crosby wasn't surprised by the change of plea.
"This is something that's not unusual. As you get very close to the trial, the noose starts to tighten and people start to say, you know what, the writing is on the wall. I need to get in here and make the best deal I can while I still have an opportunity to do so," he said, "It's better to make a deal and come clean than it is to let the sword of justice knock your head off at the last minute."
Federal prosecutor John Richmond says Evans changed his plea, because he is guilty. He declined comment after the hearing.
District attorney Cono Caranna is a special prosecutor in the federal case.
"The scenario and the evidence have been very familiar from the beginning. And it just shows you the extent to which the activity was there and the necessity for this case to be resolved," said Caranna.
The defendant, a former Marine and 1999 graduate of Harrison Central High, faces a maximum 10 years in prison. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will "recommend" a lighter sentence.
Evans declined comment after the hearing.
His lawyer was bound by the plea bargain to refrain from comment.
"We are under an agreement. We're not going to be able to comment on it. I wish we could," said Cecil Woods.
Woods says he was "absolutely" prepared to go to trial next week.
While the defendant declined comment and his lawyer is bound by the plea agreement not to discuss the case, Daniel Evans' father, who sat through the 30 minute hearing, did offer a brief statement.
"The only thing I can say is Daniel made the best decision for him and his family. And that's all I can say," said Thomas Evans Sr.
Next week's federal trial will move forward. Former jailers Ryan Teel, Rick Gaston and Karl Stolze are scheduled to stand trial at federal court in Hattiesburg.