Ex-trooper accused of beatings, supervisors of ignoring them

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A new civil lawsuit accuses a federally indicted former state trooper of violence toward the public and his supervisors of looking the other way.
Saltillo carpenter John A. Hawn claims Christopher Gary Hughes of Tupelo severely beat him after a July 2012 traffic stop, directed another trooper to destroy the video and then filed charges against Hawn to hold over him to avert legal repercussions.
Hughes could not be reached for comment late Friday, and neither could a spokesman for the Mississippi Highway Patrol in Jackson.
The MHP supervisors’ names are not listed because they will not be known until further investigation, the lawsuit states.
Coincidentally, 40-year-old Hughes is scheduled to plead guilty to a federal charge during a hearing Monday. The specifics are not available, but the plea comes after his indictment on charges he deprived a woman of her civil rights in 2007 when he allegedly stomped her while in his custody in the Lee County Jail.
In Hawn’s lawsuit complaint, filed by Tupelo attorneys Jim Waide, Shane McLaughlin and Victor Fleitas, they say Hughes beat Hawn “in a state of rage” after Hawn drove around a roadblock set up by Hughes and then-MHP officer Jody Berryhill at State Park Road and Highway 178 on July 16.
Berryhill no longer works for MHP.
Hawn suffered a broken jaw and other injuries and was held in jail for five days.
The lawsuit claims this incident likely was reported to the FBI.
Since “at least 2007,” the new lawsuit claims that Hughes’ supervisors knew about his “propensity for violence” and did nothing about it.
The suit names six other people allegedly assaulted by Hughes – under the color of law – including the woman whose beating prompted the federal civil rights indictment.
An exhibit to the lawsuit purports to be a two-page letter from one alleged victim, a 63-year-old Tupelo High School teacher, who writes in great detail to the MHP about what happened to her May 12 after she’d worked the THS graduation ceremony at the BancorpSouth Arena.
The teacher said she and her fiance, who was driving, were stopped by a patrolman and admitted to consuming a small amount of alcohol. She said they were treated courteously until they were handed over to Hughes, whom she said treated her roughly at the jail and threatened to break her arm.
Among the six others cited in the lawsuit is William T. Brann, who sued for injuries by Hughes and after the 2012 legislative session was paid $23,000 to settle his complaint.
Hawn’s lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages to be determined by a jury for deprivation of his rights against excessive force and unreasonable seizure, assault and battery, and abuse of process.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com