Melvin Hilson, 49, former Deputy Warden of Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman, pleaded guilty today to violating an inmate’s civil rights in 2016. In June 2021 , Hilson was charged with violating the inmate’s civil rights by repeatedly striking. and threw him to the ground, which caused the inmate to rupture his eardrum, abrasions to his ear and neck, and prolonged headaches. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner for the Northern District of Mississippi made the announcement.
“This defendant is held responsible for violating his duty as a corrections officer by unlawfully assaulting an inmate in his custody,” Assistant Attorney General Clarke said. “This former Deputy Warden of Parchman caused serious injury to the victim and his actions violated the trust we place in corrections officials to lawfully carry out their duties. The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold law enforcement officials accountable when they use baseless force and violate the civil rights of people inside our jails and prisons.
“When corrections officials use unlawful, unnecessary, and unwarranted force against inmates, it tarnishes the profession and all officers of integrity who do their jobs every day within the bounds of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Joyner. “Today’s guilty plea is an important step in ensuring that those who choose to breach the public trust are held accountable for their unlawful acts.”
According to court documents and statements made during today’s hearing, Hilson was working as a member of Parchman’s K-9 unit at the time of the assault. On or about August 3, 2016, JT was in a cage inside the medical unit, where he was waiting to be seen by a healthcare provider. Hilson approached JT and punched him repeatedly with a clenched fist, knowing there was no reason to use force and that JT posed no threat to himself or others. . During the assault, Hilson knocked JT to the ground, picked him up, then punched him and knocked him to the ground again. According to prosecutors, JT did not attempt to retaliate or defend against Hilson’s assault.
A federal grand jury indicted Hilson in June 2021 on three separate counts, including writing a false report to cover up the assault and lying to Mississippi Department of Corrections investigators about the assault. The obstruction charges will be dismissed after sentencing. Violation of civil rights carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Hilson is scheduled to be sentenced on September 1, 2022.
This case was investigated by the Jackson Division of the FBI. Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Cameron A. Bell of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Hampton and Robert Mims of the Northern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.