WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that James Fetter, a former officer with the Memphis Police Department, pleaded guilty to involvement in two conspiracies to deprive individuals of their civil rights and to willfully using his position as a police officer to steal money during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn.
"Police officers every day carry out a vital and often dangerous duty, and they deserve our trust and confidence," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "When a few violate the civil rights of those they have sworn to protect, they undermine that trust and confidence, and increase the burden on and danger to their fellow police officers. We will continue to pursue vigorously those who abuse the public trust."
Fetter pleaded guilty to two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, which makes it unlawful to conspire to deprive individuals of their civil rights, and one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, which makes it unlawful for a law enforcement officer to willfully make an unreasonable seizure of property from an individual.
As part of his plea, Fetter acknowledged that he and his partner, former Memphis police officer Adam Gagnier, agreed to steal money from individuals they stopped for traffic violations. He further admitted that on Feb. 25, 2004, he and Gagnier stopped LaQuan Neil and Latoya Greer, and without any law enforcement justification, stole $3,000 from them, and kept that money for personal gain. Fetter also acknowledged that following marital problems in 2004, he conspired with Gagnier to falsely arrest and imprison his wife, Leah Fetter, and Herbert Adcock.
Fetter agreed that his conduct violated federal law. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each conspiracy violation and one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the §242 charge.
In related matters, on Dec. 14, 2005, former Memphis police officer Adam Gagnier pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights, and former Memphis police officer Jennifer Vickery, another former partner of Gagnier’s, pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights.
Enforcing the criminal civil rights laws is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. Over the past five years, the Division has convicted 30 percent more defendants in color of law cases than during the previous five years. So far, in fiscal year 2006 alone, the Division has convicted 40 of the 42 defendants charged with color of law violations.