Ex-prison guard pleads guilty to concealing inmate abuse

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Vanita Gupta, U.S. DOJ civil-rights division chief

U.S. Department of Education

Vanita Gupta, U.S. DOJ civil-rights division chief

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.