By Patsy R. Brumfield / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ex-state trooper Christopher Gary Hughes pleaded guilty today to stomping a woman in the Lee County Jail more than five years ago
Hughes, 41, admitted he deprived her of her constitutional rights to protection from unreasonable force and search and seizure.
His plea agreement likely freed him from federal prosecution of two cases the Daily Journal reported are alleged in a civil lawsuit filed against Hughes last week.
His plea agreement sets a sentence of 33-41 months in prison, but Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers will decide that later.
Until his indictment last fall, the Tupelo man was a highly decorated trooper for the Mississippi Highway Patrol and consistently recognized for a high number of DUI arrests.
A federal grand jury indicted Hughes on Oct. 12 on charges he violated a woman’s civil rights when he kicked and stomped her on the floor of the Lee County Jail. The incident is alleged to have occurred more than five years ago.
He’s been free on bond since he pleaded not guilty.
Hughes was set for trial March 11 and faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Senior Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr., who presided over today’s hearing, will sentence Hughes in a few months after completion of a report to guide his sentence decisions.
Hughes was represented by attorneys Tony Farese of Ashland and Jason Herring of Tupelo.
He also is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last week accusing him and unnamed MHP supervisors of civil rights violations associated with more than half a dozen assaults allegedly by Hughes across the past several years.
The lawsuit claims Hughes beat motorists while on duty – legally termed “under the color of law” – and that his supervisors knew about his alleged propensity for violence and looked the other way.
Legal counsel for Hughes has yet to respond to the allegations.
The complaint states that the MHP supervisors will be named as they further investigate their claims.
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(Below is a running account of the hearing. Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type rapidly.)
2:36 P.M. – All parties enter the courtroom.
Rob Coleman and John Alexander represented the U.S.A.
Farese and Herring stand before Biggers with Hughes in between.
Coleman presents the plea agreement to Judge Biggers.
Farese tells Biggers that Hughes is hard of hearing.
BIGGERS – Advised you wish to enter plea of guilty. Correct?
HUGHES – Yes sir.
BIGGERS – Asks him various standard questions associated with changing his plea to guilty.
HUGHES – Responds. Age – 41. BA University of Mississippi. (Farese, Herring – no doubts about his competence.) Very much so, he says about his representation. (Hughes wearing dark suit, dress shirt.) Received a copy of the indictment.
BIGGERS – It’s called deprivation of rights under color of law. Aware of maximum penalty? (Hughes, yes sir – not more than 10 years in prison, nmt $250,000 fine.) Understand you were a member of the MS Highway Patrol. (Yes sir)
COLEMAN – Plea agreement … Count 1, charges Oct. 2007, assaulted woman without legal justification, causing bodily injury. For plea, US will not charge any other offense arising from this. Also, not for any other July 2012… JAH… 2012, HRS individuals. Defendant pleads guilty and waives his rights to contest charges in criminal information, then indicted. Statute of limitations … cannot be charged after 5 years. Waives appeal conviction or sentence… except prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective counsel.
BIGGERS – Counsel, you don’t have to read the whole thing.
COLEMAN – Paragraph 5, turns in gun and law enforcement certificate. Plea supplement – typically don’t go over. Look at Paragraph 4 (Biggers – whatever is different, I want to put on the record) It’s part of the plea agreement. (Biggers – it affects the sentencing. I want to hear.)
Defendant seeks reduction for accepting responsibility. Cooperation to agents who interview him … to testify before grand juries with truthful testimony. Disposition for prison 33-41 months, agree to. Also polygraph, if requested by USAtty’s Office.
BIGGERS – Plea supplement, typically sealed but unsealed at time of sentencing. Mr. Hughes, you heard government summary of agreement. Accurate? (Yes sir, he did.) Explained sentence recommendation isn’t binding? (Yes, sir.) Under this agreement, if I do not accept plea, I will allow you to withdraw plea and go to trial? (Yes sir.) Did you as charged in Count 1, deprive victim of her constitutional rights. (Yes sir)
COLEMAN – If went to trial, Oct. 14, 2007, woman stopped at check point. Hughes assisting, state trooper MHP. He advised them he was taking driver to the Tupelo Jail for testing for alcohol. 2 women in booking room at Jail. Williams taken for alcohol test, other woman seated on bench. Video cameras in both rooms. No audio of incident. While woman seated. asked her to stand, remove her jewelry. She said waiting to make a phone call. Asked again to remove jewelry. Asked again why? She was sprayed with pepper spray. Jailer Baker, after spray, she needed no help from Hughes to control woman. Hughes forced woman onto bench and against the wall. Woman … Hughes hit her in the face, stomped her on the floor. Woman was lifted from the floor. Blood on head or face. Then placed into holding cell, next day released to relative. Taken to NMMC Emergency Room. Treated for facial trauma. A few days, got further medical care. Cracked and chipped teeth. Torn ear lobe. Govt requests two videos be made part of the factual basis for the court’s viewing.
BIGGERS – Very well. Mr. Hughes, heard evidence from govt. Did he accurately state what happened? (Yes sir.) Factual basis for guilty plea.
HUGHES – I plead guilty.
BIGGERS – Court accepts guilty plea. Pre-sentence report will get court more information before sentencing. Continue bond. 3:00 P.M.