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Former Memphis Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations

WASHINGTON – Antoine Owens, a former officer with the Memphis Police Department (MPD), pleaded guilty today in federal court in Memphis to felony civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced today.

Owens pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of motorists in 2003 and 2004. During his plea hearing, Owens acknowledged that he violated federal law when, while on duty as an MPD officer, he surreptitiously stole cash from drivers he pulled over and searched.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officials perform their duties with professionalism,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “But when officers cross the line and commit willful misconduct, the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute them.”

“The public has the right to trust those who are called to protect them, and the citizens of Memphis can rest assured that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting any law enforcement officer who attempts to prey on the public,” said David Kustoff, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights prosecutions. During the past six years, the Department of Justice has prosecuted 25 percent more color of law cases and convicted nearly 50 percent more defendants for official misconduct than during the preceding six years.

This case was investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the MPD Security Squad. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Parker from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice are prosecuting the case.