WASHINGTON – A former New Mexico corrections officer, John Gould, was found guilty today by a federal jury in Albuquerque, N.M., of physically assaulting two prisoners, one at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in October 2002, and another inmate at the Cibola County Detention Center in March 2004, in violation of their constitutional rights. Gould was also found guilty of obstructing justice for filing false reports. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
“For nearly 50 years now, the Civil Rights Division has endeavored to protect the constitutional rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who willfully abuse their authority to deprive the rights of individuals entrusted to their care.”
The evidence at trial established that on Oct. 16, 2002, Gould and other corrections officers unlawfully beat an inmate who was restrained on his cell floor, causing multiple injuries, including a broken left elbow, a broken right shoulder, broken ribs, and multiple abrasions and contusions. The evidence further established that on March 22, 2004, Gould, then-Cibola County jail administrator, fired 15 rounds from a riot-control weapon at a detainee who was naked and alone in a small holding cell. Eleven of the projectiles, which were plastic with a metal core, hit the detainee in the testicles, legs, hips and chest, causing open wounds and welts that later became infected. Following each incident, defendant Gould falsified reports to cover up his crimes.
The jury found Gould guilty of two counts related to the jail assaults and two counts of obstructing justice following each incident. Gould faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each criminal civil rights and obstruction charge.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of the federal criminal civil rights statutes, such as laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fiscal year 2006, almost 50 percent of the cases filed by the Criminal Section involved excessive force or law enforcement misconduct. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has filed 25 percent more such cases and convicted nearly 50 percent more defendants in these cases than in the preceding six years.