THE THIN BLUE LINE
DATELINE: MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former Memphis police officer pleaded guilty Thursday in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in exchange for prosecutors recommending a 15-year sentence, becoming the first of five officers charged in the case to admit guilt.
Desmond Mills Jr. entered his plea during a hearing at the Memphis federal courthouse as part of a larger agreement under which he will also plead guilty to related charges in state court. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the other officers would follow suit. Attorneys for three of the officers declined to comment and William Massey, the lawyer for Emmitt Martin, said in a text message that they “will stay the course” with the former officer’s criminal defense.
Mills pleaded guilty to federal charges of excessive force and obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The final sentencing decision rests with the judge. Mills remains free on bail ahead of his May 22 sentencing hearing.
✱ Mills admitted to repeatedly and unjustifiably striking Nichols with a baton and to failing to intervene in other officers’ use of force against Nichols. Mills said he watched another officer repeatedly punch Nichols in the head while two other officers restrained Nichols.
✱ Mills admitted that he did not provide any medical aid to Nichols after the beating, though he knew that Nichols had a serious medical need. He did not alert MPD or Memphis Fire Department EMTs that Nichols had been struck in the head and body.
✱ In addition, Mills participated in conversations with other officers in which they discussed, using force against Nichols, hitting Nichols to make him fall, and believing they were on the verge of killing Nichols when they saw that Nichols did not fall from the blows.
✱ Mills admitted to making false statements in connection with the arrest of Nichols, including telling his supervisor that they had done “everything by the book” and providing false information in his statements to an MPD detective tasked with writing the incident report.
✱ Finally, Mills submitted an MPD report that provided a false account of the force used on Nichols, including a claim that Mills saw Nichols “aggressively resisting” officers. Instead of admitting that he had seen an officer repeatedly punch Nichols in the head while Nichols was restrained by two other officers, Mills reported only that “Nichols was eventually put into custody.”
Pursuant to the terms of Mills’s plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of no more than 15 years in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.