WASHINGTON — Shannon Houchin, a former police officer with the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office in West Memphis, Ark., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Little Rock to a felony civil rights charge.
During his guilty plea, Houchin admitted that he abused his authority as a police officer when, in May 2006, he unnecessarily assaulted an arrestee while at the Crittenden County Detention Facility.
Houchin faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
“It is unacceptable for law enforcement officials to willfully abuse those committed to their custody,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The overwhelming majority of correctional officers dispatch their difficult duties with honor and professionalism. The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who cross the line and violate federal law.”
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fiscal year 2006, nearly 50 percent of the cases brought by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division involved such prosecutions. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has convicted 50 percent more defendants for excessive force and official misconduct than in the preceding six years.
Today’s plea resulted from the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division attorneys Christine Dunn and Karen Ruckert handled the case for the Justice Department.