Vanita Gupta, U.S. DOJ civil-rights division chief
Vanita Gupta, U.S. DOJ civil-rights division chief Credit: U.S. Department of Education

A former corrections officer pleaded guilty Thursday to helping conceal a guard-on-inmate beating at Mississippi State Penitentiary.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Deonte Pate, 23, admitted to helping fellow officers cover up the beating of a prisoner by filing false reports and lying to federal investigators.

Pate, and the other officers — Lawardrick Marsher, 28, and Robert Sturdivant, 47 — were charged in June. The beating involved Marsher and Sturdivant punching and kicking the prisoner, officials say.

Felicia C. Adams, U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Mississippi, said Pate violated the law as well as the public trust.

“In the closed prison environment, we rely on corrections officers to protect the safety and well-being of inmates,” Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, who oversees the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a news release. “When officers abuse inmates – or in this case lie to cover up abuse – their actions offend the law and undermine the integrity of our justice system.”

Pate faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2017.

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.