October 14, 2017 10:09:37 PM
WEST POINT -- A Clay County man convicted of beating a Marine in West Point three years ago will spend five years in prison.
Kent Davis, 26, of Okolona, was sentenced to 10 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with five suspended, in Clay County Circuit Court Friday, four days after pleading guilty to one count of aggravated assault. Davis is one of three defendants who admitted to attacking Ralph Weems in the parking lot of the Huddle House on Highway 45 Alternate on Aug. 23, 2014. His co-defendant, Marquavious McMillian, 34, of Aberdeen, also pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to eight years in MDOC with two to serve.
Another defendant, Courtez McMillian, 25, of Okolona, pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to seven years in MDOC. Five years and eight months of the sentence was suspended and he was given credit for time served in county jail, so Courtez will not spend any time in prison.
Weems was beaten severely enough that he was unresponsive when first responders arrived at the scene. He was taken to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he remained in a coma for several days. Assistant District Attorney Scott Rogillio said Weems is currently undergoing treatment for severe head injuries at a facility in Arkansas.
"It's miraculous how well he's doing," Rogillio said. "... He's a fighter."
Rogillio added the sentencing for Davis seems low considering Weems' injuries, but that it may have been risky to go to trial because the state would have heavily relied on testimony from Davis' co-defendants. He said Weems and his family are aware of and satisfied with the case.
Setting the record straight
Because the assault caught so much attention both locally and nationally, Rogillio said he wanted to set the record straight as to what happened. After the attack, some news media outlets reported the assault was racially motivated -- the defendants were black and the victim white -- and that Weems was also a target because of his military background.
But witness David Knighten, of West Point, testified Friday that neither is true.
Knighten, a friend of Weems and a veteran of the United States Air Force, was with Weems the night of the attack and suffered minor injuries. He told the court he did not believe the defendants attacked Weems because he was white or a veteran. Neither of them brought up their military service the entire night, he added.
On the night of the assault, Knighten and Weems had gone out for a "night on the town," Rogillio said, during which they both drank alcohol.
Knighten said after he, Weems and a designated driver left the restaurant where all but the driver had been drinking, they went to eat at Waffle House. There they got into a verbal altercation that became rowdy enough that someone called the police.
Knighten, Weems and the driver then went to Huddle House where Weems became involved in an argument with Davis. At one point during the argument, Davis -- who later admitted he had also been drinking -- took a swing at Weems, missed and grazed the designated driver, Knighten said. At that point, Huddle House management kicked them all out.
Neither Rogillio nor Knighten said whether Davis or the other defendants were involved in the altercation at Waffle House.
As Weems' party left Huddle House, they were ambushed in the parking lot. The beating did not end until one of the assailants apparently saw the firearm Knighten was carrying.
"When I spun, I think the back of my shirt came up and somebody (saw the gun)," Knighten said. "That's when I heard somebody shout, 'He's got a gun.'"
Knighten did not fire the weapon because he said there was never an opportunity to do so safely.
Knighten said he hoped the defendants' convictions would give Weems, his family and the community enough closure to move forward.
"The reality is that that night should never have taken place," he said. "... It's my hope that ... now that we have the conviction we can move forward with our lives."
Davis did not testify at the sentencing. His attorney, Collen Hudson of Columbus, declined to comment on the case per her client's request.
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