Goon Squad member gets 17.5 years; defense attorney paints him as whistleblower

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – A third member of the Rankin County Goon Squad has been sentenced.

On Wednesday, US District Judge Tom Lee sentenced Daniel Opdyke to 210 months in the custody of the US Bureau of Prisons.

Opdyke is one of six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who have pleaded guilty to sexually and physically abusing Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Parker on the night of January 24, 2023, and attempted to cover it up after Jenkins was shot in the face.

The sentence represented the maximum allowed under federal guidelines. He is expected to serve the time concurrently with any sentence handed down by the state.

Opdyke’s attorney Jeffrey Reynolds asked the court for seven years, painting the 27-year-old father as the whistleblower, saying the federal government would not have known about the case without Opdyke’s help. He also said that his client talked to investigators despite receiving death threats from his supervisors, Jeffrey Middleton and Brett McAlpin.

“What incentive is there for somebody to come clean to give crucial evidence to implicate their co-conspirators when they’re going to say, ‘It doesn’t matter, you’re going to get the maximum [sentence]?’” Reynolds asked.

Reynolds went on to tell the judge that Opdyke was sexually abused by his father as a young child, and looked up to Middleton and McAlpin as father figures.

Attorney Jeffrey Reynolds speaks outside the federal courthouse after his client, a member of...
Attorney Jeffrey Reynolds speaks outside the federal courthouse after his client, a member of the Rankin County Goon Squad, was sentenced to prison.(WLBT)

Lee wasn’t buying it, saying he also didn’t agree with the defense’s argument that Opdyke had been heavily influenced by Goon Squad leaders and was only trying to fit in.

“I don’t doubt that you were subjected to the corrupting influence of your superiors. You had numerous positive role models – your grandfather, your uncle, Mr. Holloway. But instead of following those, you chose to follow the lead of Mr. Middleton and Mr. McAlpin,” the judge said, speaking to the defendant.

“You may not have been fully aware of what the Goon Squad was about when you joined up, but you knew it involved the use of excessive force, and [you] admittedly understood the tactics it undertook prior to the mission against Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins.”

The judge also admonished Melvin Jenkins, the father of Michael Corey Jenkins, after telling the court he was “ashamed” of the lawyers representing the men who tortured his son.

Lee agreed Jenkins should be outraged, but not at the attorneys, saying the defendants have a legal right to representation, and that it’s their attorneys’ job to argue on their behalf, regardless of their personal feelings on the case.

“That means he has to make every argument he can for his client,” he said. “Please try to understand they’re just doing their jobs.”

The sentence was handed down following two hours of arguments from attorneys, including an emotional statement from Opdyke himself.

“For the past seven-plus months I have been imprisoned and isolated from my family and everyone else that I’ve ever known. “The isolation has given me time to reflect on my actions and how I transformed from loving son, brother, father, and husband into the monster that I became that night,” he said. “I cannot fathom how easily I fell in line, going along with, and at times, actively participating in the use of excessive force against Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins.”

“The [pain] my actions have caused Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins will haunt me every night for the rest of my life. I still continue to have nightmares.”

Opdyke broke down several times and had to wipe away tears, an action that was made all the more difficult while he was in shackles.

During the comments, Parker and one of his aunts left the courtroom.

Attorney Trent Walker said afterward that his client walked out to his aunt’s console, and that he also forgave Opdyke, not necessarily for Opdyke, but for himself.

Walker read victim impact statements from Parker and Jenkins. Parker’s aunt, Linda Rawls, also spoke, as did Jenkins’ parents, Mary and Melvin Jenkins.

“This man who tried to take me [son’s] manhood is hoping the court will show [him] more mercy. But they didn’t show my son any mercy,” Jenkins said. “When my son was on his back, the only reason they didn’t use the dildo [on him] was because he defecated on himself.”

“Your honor, I feel for his family, but he needs to get the maximum for what he did to my son, for taking my son’s dignity,” she said. “You can talk to Michael now, and he breaks down in tears when he tries to talk about it.”

Melvin Jenkins questioned the officers’ sexuality, calling them an expletive.

“What other person would take a dildo and try to put it behind them and try to make another man suck his thing?” he asked. “What kind of man is that? You’re a police officer and you’re doing some junk like this? This is pitiful. And then, he’s got the nerve to come in here with all these lawyers…”

“I’m embarrassed [of] them for even taking his case,” he continued. “There is no case. He did it. He admitted to it. Your honor, he deserves what he gets.”

Jenkins was referring to his son’s case, as well as the incident involving Alan Schmidt.

On the night of December 4, 2022, Opdyke pulled over Schmidt along I-20 near North State Street and held him on the scene until fellow Goon Squad member Christian Dedmon arrived.

Dedmon, who arrived out of uniform, took Opdyke’s gun and fired it at the victim. Dedmon later beat up the victim while he was handcuffed, and sexually abused him.

“He must be truly sick in the head,” Schmidt wrote in a witness impact statement read by Assistant US Attorney Glenda Haynes. “My life has forever changed because of the actions of these officers.”

Reynolds told the judge that Opdyke was not involved in the abuse, saying it didn’t occur at the scene.

He also said his client had a diminished role in the Goon Squad’s actions on the night of January 24, 2023.

That’s when the five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and one former Richland Police officer entered a home on 135 Conerly Rd., in an attempt to scare Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Parker, who they said was taking advantage of the white homeowner.

The two endured what was described as unspeakable torture, being handcuffed, beaten, and covered in milk, grease, alcohol, chocolate syrup, and eggs. They were later tased multiple times, in part, to determine who had the better tasers.

Prosecutors say the officers eventually looked for and used household items to torment the men, including mounting a flesh-colored dildo on the end of an air rifle and attempting to shove it into their mouths.

After Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, the six huddled together to cover up the crime, recovering evidence, removing a computer hard drive, and picking up shell casings while Jenkins bled.

Reynolds said before that night, his client had no history of using excessive force and pointed to the fact that court records showed Opdyke never tased any of the victims.

“He didn’t own a taser. He didn’t borrow a taser like Lt. Middleton did, so he couldn’t get in on the action,” he said. “Elward did it. Dedmon did it. Not Daniel. Daniel didn’t waterboard any of the victims. Daniel didn’t put liquids or other foods on the victims.”

Reynolds’ comments contradicted statements made by Parker, who said in his witness statement that Opdyke did throw food at him, and “seemed to take pleasure in beating me with a wooden board and other objects.”

“I get it. If had gone through what they had gone through, my memory of exactly who did what I’m sure would be clouded,” Reynolds said. “But the PSR [presentence report] is the objective resolution of who did what.”

Haynes disagreed, liking Opdyke’s participation to that of a sports team.

“When you have a basketball or football team, it takes all players to win that game. He participated and now he wants this court to not hold him accountable for all the conspiracy actions of each participant,” she said, telling the judge that Opdyke could have stepped in to end the abuse and continued to work for the sheriff’s department until that May .

“Not a single law enforcement officer said stop. Not a single law enforcement officer rendered aid… He went back to work as if nothing had happened.”

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