Desmond Mills Jr., one of five former Memphis Police Department officers facing federal charges in connection with the tragic killing of Tyre Nichols, entered a guilty plea in federal court today. Mills, 33, appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Mark S. Norris and pled guilty to civil rights and conspiracy charges related to the January 7 incident.
On September 12, a federal grand jury indicted Mills and his co-defendants, Emmitt Martin III, 31; Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; and Justin Smith, 28. The charges include using excessive force resulting in Nichols's death, aiding and abetting each other in using excessive force, failing to intervene, failing to provide medical aid, and conspiring to cover up their actions.
The remaining four defendants are set to face a federal trial scheduled for May 6, 2024.
In today's court appearance, Mills pleaded guilty to counts one and three of the indictment. Count one charged Mills with using excessive force and failing to intervene in the unlawful assault, while count three charged him with conspiring to cover up his use of unlawful force by omitting material information and providing false information to his supervisor and others.
As part of his plea agreement, Mills admitted to repeatedly and unjustifiably striking Nichols with a baton and failing to intervene when other officers used excessive force. He acknowledged watching another officer repeatedly punch Nichols while two other officers restrained him.
Mills also confessed to not providing any medical aid to Nichols, despite knowing that Nichols had a serious medical need. He failed to alert the Memphis Police Department or Memphis Fire Department EMTs about the extent of Nichols's injuries.
Furthermore, Mills participated in conversations with other officers discussing the use of force against Nichols, expressing their intent to make him fall and indicating their belief that they were on the verge of killing Nichols. These conversations revealed a disturbing pattern of excessive force.
Mills also admitted to making false statements during the arrest of Nichols, including misleading his supervisor by claiming they had followed protocol and providing inaccurate information to an MPD detective tasked with writing the incident report.
Mills submitted an MPD report that contained a false account of the force used on Nichols, including misrepresenting Nichols as "aggressively resisting" officers, while failing to acknowledge the excessive use of force that Nichols had endured.
Per the terms of Mills's plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of no more than 15 years in prison. In the federal system, there is no possibility of parole.
It is important to note that the remaining four defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, as the charges against them are merely a formal accusation of criminal conduct.