Shortened Day Still Brings More Damaging Testimony In Jail Case - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Shortened Day Still Brings More Damaging Testimony In Jail Case

The second day of testimony in the federal inmate abuse trial was shorter than expected, but still included more damaging evidence against defendants Ryan Teel and Rick Gaston. The two are charged in a conspiracy to abuse inmates at the Harrison County Jail, taking away their liberty by using excessive force against them.    

William Priest returned to the witness stand Wednesday morning to continue his testimony. On Tuesday he recounted details of rampant abuse within the jail booking area. Priest's testimony supports the government's contention that there was a "culture of abuse" within the booking area. 

Priest was attacked under cross examination. Rick Gaston's attorney, Omidara Jupiter, was especially harsh, questioning the witness about his truthfulness.

He told Priest, "You're a pretty good liar aren't you? You've had a lot of practice doing it."

The defense attorney was referring to Priest's own admissions that he wrote false reports to cover up the abuse of inmates - abuse he admitted taking part in.     

The most damaging witness of the day against the defendants was likely Timothy Brandon Moore. He, too, is a former jailer who pleaded guilty for his role, and agreed to cooperate with the government's case.     

Moore told jurors that Gaston was "cocky" and acted as if he owned the jail.  He said Gaston encouraged an environment of abuse, often talking about "kicking ass and not taking names." That statement, Moore said, referred to using force against the inmates. 

He also told jurors that Gaston instructed officers to do it "away from the cameras."

Moore, 26, described Ryan Teel's actions as those of a monster. He recalled how Teel was "excited" about news that a rowdy inmate was being transported to the jail - a prisoner who had already kicked out the window of a police squad car.      

Moore said although the inmate was calm at the time, Teel shot his taser at the inmate's private parts. It happened while the inmate was naked in the shower, and not causing any trouble. 

Moore told jurors that Teel bragged about, "shooting him in the gooch." Moore said it was that incident that pushed him over the edge personally. Even though he admitted to writing false reports about incidents of abuse, he said the taser to the crotch incident was particularly disturbing. He walked out of the jail that night, quitting his job.     

Moore also described an especially brutal beating against a drunken inmate who was, "barely able to stand up." Moore said jailer Morgan Thompson attacked the man, kicking him in the face repeatedly when the inmate was down. A subsequent booking photo of a bloody face was shown and bragged about in the booking area.     

Former jail employee Melissa Peterson also testified for the government. She told of an incident when she witnessed a friend, booking officer Regina Rhodes, hitting a female inmate in the back when she was down. Peterson said Rick Gaston witnessed the incident, but did nothing to intervene.      

The second day of testimony in the trial came to an unexpected halt. Shortly after three o'clock, government attorney Lisa Krigsten told the judge, "I'm afraid the government has no witnesses."

An apparent mix up in witness schedules made a couple of witnesses unable to attend, and the government was not able to line up alternates quick enough. 

Judge Louis Guirola was quick to remember his days of practicing law. He told the young government attorneys to "chalk it up to experience." However, he did suggest they have several witnesses at a time lined up, in case there should be problems calling one.     

Prosecution testimony resumes at nine o'clock Thursday morning.

By Steve Phillips

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