- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - Nine inmates have pleaded guilty in federal court in Natchez to participating in a deadly prison riot in Mississippi in 2012.

One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds immigrants convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally.

U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis said in a news release the pleas were entered Tuesday. Each pleaded guilty to one count of rioting in a federal correctional facility.

The inmates were Gerson Benavides, 30; Joel Oswaldo Ramirez-Nunez, 33; Humberto Cuellar, 41; Hiasom Ali, 36; Raybel Granillo, 29; Margarito Munoz-Astello, 37; Ricardo Quintana, 27; Ruben Coronado-Licon, 22; and Bertil James, 38.

Davis said seven of the defendants are citizens of Mexico. Ali and James are citizens of Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.

Each defendant faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and supervised release of three years. The defendants will be sentenced on May 29 and June 12.

Correction officer Catlin Carithers was killed and 20 people were injured as the riot grew to involve hundreds of inmates.

The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies.

The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, the FBI has said.

It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage.

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