SALTILLO – Retired Mississippi Highway Patrol chief Michael Berthay denies anyone asked him to discipline a trooper accused of assaulting motorists.
Berthay, who lives in Saltillo, insists he was never called upon to make any disciplinary decision about then-trooper Christopher Hughes before Berthay retired in June 2010.
Berthay, Hughes and the current commissioner of public safety are defendants in a lawsuit filed by five Northeast Mississippi residents, who claim Hughes beat, injured or threatened them while he worked as a state law enforcement officer.
Hughes, 42, formerly of Tupelo, is serving federal prison time in Texas for a guilty plea to depriving a woman of her civil rights by stomping her against a concrete floor in the Lee County Jail in 2007.
State charges were never filed against him, and the lawsuit defendants claim Berthay covered up for Hughes.
But Friday, Berthay responded to the lawsuit, first claiming that because he was a state employee at the time, he is protected under the doctrine of qualified immunity.
He also states he was not Hughes’ employer and “was not the ultimate decision-maker” on disciplinary issues regarding MHP officers.
Through his attorney, Robert E. Sanders of Jackson, Berthay claims he never viewed a videotape of Hughes attacking the woman in 2007 and that he was not asked to brief his successor or the present commissioner.
The case is set to go on trial Sept. 15, 2014, in Aberdeen.