“I put myself on the front lines – I put the MHP first in my life, instead of God,” said the 42-year-old ex-lawman. “I took on too much. I didn’t get enough rest. I promised myself I would never let anyone take my life. I wore myself out.”
Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers told the Tupelo man, now headed to prison for 33 months, “There’s no question you crossed the line.”
The judge termed Hughes’ behavior “totally uncalled for” in describing a video of the beating.
Biggers pronounced sentence on Hughes for his February guilty plea to one count of violating the woman’s civil rights, while he worked as a state trooper.
The once-decorated lawman will report to a federal prison by noon Aug. 19. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will determine where he will serve the time.
Hughes’ Oct. 25, 2012, indictment states that on Oct. 14, 2007, he transported a woman to the jail and then, “acting under color of law,” threw her onto the concrete floor, stomped her head against the floor and kicked her “without legal justification,” injuring her and depriving her of her constitutional rights to freedom from excessive force and from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Biggers, a former district attorney, asked why it had taken so long for three beating incidents to come before a court, referring to Hughes’ plea agreement, which listed two other victims from 2012.
No one in the Oxford Federal Courthouse had any answers for the judge. The other incidents were dismissed in exchange for Hughes’ guilty plea.
No state charges ever were filed against Hughes, although he’s been the object of at least two lawsuits by men who said they were physically injured or threatened by him.
One of the lawsuits was settled and the Legislature paid to cover the man’s medical bills. The other awaits action in federal court.
After he serves his prison time, Hughes will be on two years’ supervised release.
Biggers also ordered him to undergo mental health treatment and not to possess any firearms. Earlier, Hughes surrendered his law enforcement certification and promised never to work in that field again.
Without a plea deal, Hughes faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Jason Herring of Tupelo, Hughes’ attorney at the hearing, told Biggers it was “frankly inexplicable why he finds himself in this position today.”
Prosecutor Robert Coleman told Biggers it was Hughes’ actions that brought them to court and recommended strong punishment.
While Herring said Hughes accepted responsibility for what he did, the ex-trooper never said he was sorry for hurting the woman.
“I am sorry to stand before you today,” he told Biggers. “It pains me. I’ve testified before in courts all over this great state.”
He said his guilty plea humbled him. “I gave up everything when I was charged,” he added.
Hughes’ other attorney, Anthony Farese of Ashland, was not present at the sentencing due to continued medical treatment for a condition which hospitalized him several weeks ago.