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Monday, January 5, 2009
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Former South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violation

WASHINGTON – John B. Sawyer, a former trooper with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Charleston, S.C., to using excessive force during an arrest.

During his plea, Sawyer acknowledged that he abused his authority as a law enforcement officer when, on May 26, 2006, he unnecessarily and repeatedly kicked the head and neck area of a man who had been apprehended in Sumter County after a chase on Interstate 95. Sawyer agreed that his conduct violated federal law and the constitutional rights of the arrested man.

"The overwhelming majority of police officers perform their duties with honor and professionalism," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "However, if an officer commits a criminal act by violating another person’s civil rights, the Justice Department will not hesitate to step in and vigorously enforce the law."

"This is an important case, as the public places great trust in law enforcement to protect and serve them," said Walt Wilkins, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. "When an officer violates this oath, and the civil rights of those he encounters, the public’s trust is eroded and fellow officers suffer as a result. We are dedicated to prosecuting those who engage in abusive police conduct, and who tarnish the reputation of the dedicated officers who serve each day with honor and distinction."


The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alston C. Badger and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Alan Gray formerly of the Civil Rights Division.