The Department of Justice today announced that former Mississippi correctional officer Lawardrick Marsher was sentenced to 50 weekends in prison, five years probation and 150 hours of community service for severely beating an inmate at the state’s Parchman Prison.
Marsher, 29, admitted at his guilty plea in February that he repeatedly punched and kicked the victim while he lay nonresistant on the ground. The victim was temporarily blinded by the attack and suffered severe blood loss, a broken orbital bone, and permanent partial vision loss after the March 9, 2014, incident.
After the attack, Marsher and three other officers created a cover story that falsely minimized and falsely justified the force used by officers. As part of the cover-up, they wrote false reports and lied to federal investigators.
“Vicious attacks like this one dishonor the responsible work done by corrections officers throughout the country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler. “The Department of Justice will protect the rights of all citizens, including those in prison.”
The leader of the cover-up, Robert Sturdivant, has also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30. Sturdivant was a lieutenant at the prison and Marsher’s supervisor.
Two other officers were sentenced on June 2 for their roles in the beating and the cover-up. Deonte Pate, 24, was sentenced to 12 weekends in jail and to a period of probation for his role in concealing the incident. Romander Nelson, 44, was sentenced to 14 weekends in jail and a period of probation for failing to intervene to protect the victim.
The Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman is the largest prison in the state, housing more than 3,000 inmates. It has operated continuously as both a prison and a working farm since 1901.
Marsher was terminated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections shortly after the incident, and Nelson and Sturdivant were terminated after federal charges were filed. Pate resigned.
"Corrections officers are sworn to protect those within our prison systems, but there is an expectation that they uphold the laws and rights of those they protect," said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi, Christopher Freeze. "Inmates are not less than human and maintain inalienable civil rights; therefore, they should be treated with justice not callous assault. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate allegations of civil rights violations."
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson Division, with the cooperation of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Coleman of the Northern District of Mississippi and Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.