Violation of Civil Rights

The Justice Department recently released a statement that a former New Mexico Sheriff’s Office Deputy pled guilty to sexually assaulting an arrestee in his custody and obstruction of justice after attempting to destroy the evidence of his crime. He awaits sentencing but faces up to ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and restitution payments to the victim. The guilty verdict was obtained under the enhanced penalties of the 2022 Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act.

Violation of Civil Rights of Arrestee and Obstruction of Justice

Based on a plea agreement statement from the former Doña Ana Sheriff’s Office deputy, the deputy responded to a car accident on April 30, 2023. He arrested a woman at the scene for driving while intoxicated and careless driving and then proceeded to transport her to a medical center. After retrieving her from the medical center, he handcuffed her hands behind her back, placed her inside his patrol car, and sexually assaulted her. Then, he transported her to the Doña Ana Detention Center.

Doña Ana Sheriff’s Office deputy patrol vehicles are equipped with WatchGuard DVR systems. These internal video camera systems include a backseat camera and record and store footage. The former deputy believed that the system may have recorded the assault, so he tried to destroy the camera and recording a few hours after the assault.

According to Las Cruces Sun News, the 34-year-old former deputy reported someone had broken into his police car, rifled through the vehicle, and damaged the DVR system on May 2, 2023. However, the manufacturer of the system, Motorola, recovered footage that showed the sexual assault. The deputy was fired from his position on August 30, 2023.

The former deputy pled guilty to federal charges of violating the victim’s civil rights and obstruction of justice. According to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the former deputy weaponized his authority, exploited his power, and betrayed his oath to protect and serve.

Police Sexual Violence

Unfortunately, the deputy’s actions are not an isolated event. Researchers have identified 669 cases of police sexual violence that occurred over a recent eight-year period. This data was derived from a more extensive study on police crime, which included 16,500 arrest cases of police crime from 2005 to 2019, which included over 13,800 individual nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers. This number only included instances where police officers were arrested for their crimes, which is statistically much less likely to occur than crimes others commit.

The data included information about the crimes committed by disgraced San Diego police officer, Anthony Arevalos, who stalked, harassed, and/or sexually assaulted over a dozen women while he performed on-duty patrols. According to subsequent findings and lawsuits, his command staff and supervisors knew of the crimes but remained silent about them. Arevalos only served half of his prison sentence and did not register as a sex offender.

In 87.1 percent of the cases researchers identified that resulted in arrest, the officers involved were patrol officers. 81.4 percent of the cases involved officers who were on duty at the time of the crime. 171 of the cases, or 25.5 percent, involved situations in which police used their traffic enforcement powers to stop and sexually abuse women. In 94.7 percent of the cases, the crimes were detected by citizen complaints, rather than police-initiated internal affairs investigations. The offending officer’s employing agency only made the arrest in less than 59 percent of the cases.

Contact The Zeiger Firm If Your Civil Rights Were Violated

If a law enforcement officer or other person in authority violated your civil rights, you deserve justice. The Zeiger Firm has obtained millions of dollars in compensation for civil rights victims. Contact us today for a free and confidential case review.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.