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Friday, October 3, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Former Arizona Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violation

WASHINGTON - Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Grace Chung Becker, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Diane J. Humetewa, and Special Agent in Charge John E. Lewis of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Phoenix Division announced today that former Fort Mojave Tribal Police Department officer, Michael Phelps has pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and to providing a false statement to the FBI.

Phelps was charged in a two-count information lodged Oct. 2, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix. In the plea agreement, Phelps admitted to having sexual relations with a female arrestee and later lied to the FBI agent during an investigation into the incident. Phelps admitted that he arrested the victim for a motor vehicle offense and threatened to incarcerate her unless she had sex with him, then released the victim after she complied. Phelps also admitted that, after a complaint by the victim led to a federal investigation, he falsely told FBI agents that he did not have sex with the victim.

Phelps faces a maximum penalty of nine years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec.15, 2008.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Yuma Resident Agency. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Bachus of the District of Arizona and Trial Attorney Cyra O’Daniel of the Department of Justice.

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. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Division’s Criminal Section convicted the highest number of defendants in its history, surpassing the record previously set in Fiscal Year 2006. During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants in law enforcement prosecutions than during the previous seven years (391 vs. 256) .