Former MPD officers federally charged in Nichols case enter not guilty pleas

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Four of the five officers federally indicted following the death of Tyre Nichols entered pleas of not guilty Wednesday.

In federal court, we were not allowed to bring cameras inside but we were there as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr. appeared before a federal judge for just minutes, handcuffed at their hands and feet.

At least three of the former Memphis police officers were spotted Wednesday morning entering the federal building in downtown Memphis.

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Justin Smith were seen by WREG walking into the federal office building, a day after their indictments by the Department of Justice on new federal charges.

Five former Memphis officers federally indicted in Tyre Nichols case

The indictment lists four separate counts including excessive force and failure to intervene, deliberate indifference, conspiracy to witness tamper, and witness tampering for the former officers, which also include and Emmitt Martin, and Desmond Mills Jr.

None of the officers or their attorneys had a comment for when asked by a WREG reporter.

According to documents in the federal case, Haley and Mills took off their body-worn cameras and set them aside before gathering with the other officers to discuss the force used on Nichols. They allegedly made statements such as, “I thought when he wasn’t going to fall, we about to kill this man,” while emergency medical personnel were at the scene.

Bean, Haley, Smith, and Mills Jr. entered pleas of not guilty Wednesday. Attorney Blake Ballin represents Desmond Mills Jr. He said they’ve been expecting these new charges.

“He’s concerned about the charges that have been brought against him and he looks forward to defending himself,” Ballin said. “He’s taking it very seriously just like he’s taking the state indictment. These are scary things for anybody to have to deal with. It’s especially scary and uncomfortable to someone who dedicated his life to being a law enforcement officer and now finds himself on the other side of things.”

Court hearing for 5 former officers in Nichols death

The fifth former officer, Emmett Martin, is expected to turn himself in Thursday.

They were given a $50,000 unsecured bond and were released without having to pay anything. But if they don’t show up for court will owe $50,000.

Some of the conditions of their bond include supervision, seeking employment, surrendering their passport, not having a firearm or ammunition, and avoiding contact with each other. They must also live in the greater Memphis area.

“It means they don’t have to put up any money. If any of them fails to show up for court then the government will go after them for that amount. But again because of their track record, their lack of records, their stability, their ties to the community, there’s no reason for them to be detained. There’s no reason to have to put up any money up front,” Ballin said.

We questioned Justin Smith as he left court, but he didn’t respond.

All five officers already face state criminal charges of second-degree murder in the Nichols case. They’re also charged with aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and official oppression.

Another hearing on the local charges is set for Sept. 15.

Following the announcement of federal charges, attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing Nichols’ family, praised Clark and United States Attorney Kevin G. Ritz for their efforts, saying:

“The news today from the United States Justice Department that there will be criminal accountability on the federal level for Tyre’s death gives his family hope as they continue to grieve his loss and inspire change in his honor. We applaud AG Garland and Assistant AG Clarke for their tireless efforts to create federal accountability for these officers who were selected to be part of the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION unit and savagely ended Tyre’s life, setting a critical precedent for accountability and justice.”

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