WASHINGTON – Trennis Swims and Harold McCall, both former officers with the Memphis Police Department (MPD), pleaded guilty today in federal court to felony civil rights charges. Swims and McCall are the latest former officers to either plead guilty or be indicted in the ongoing criminal investigation into the MPD.
During the plea hearing, Swims acknowledged that while on duty as an MPD officer, he surreptitiously stole cash from drivers he pulled over and searched. McCall acknowledged that he and other MPD officers, allegedly including another former MPD officer, Arthur Sease, abused their authority as law enforcement officers by stealing cash from drivers they pulled over at traffic stops. McCall admitted that his conduct violated federal law. Swims faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison, and McCall faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
“Police misconduct anywhere damages the reputation and status of law enforcement everywhere,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Illegal actions such as the ones taken in this case must be prosecuted vigorously so that the reputations of law enforcement officers across the country won’t be sullied, and so that wrongdoers don’t go unpunished.”
“The majority of law enforcement officers are good and hardworking people who risk their lives every day for our safety. However, those officers who violate the public trust will be prosecuted. We will continue to aggressively investigate this matter and other violations of public trust,” said David Kustoff, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.
Former MPD officer Arthur Sease was charged in August 2006 in a 50-count indictment. The charges against Sease include conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, robbery, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, violation of civil rights under color of law, and distribution of controlled substances. The same indictment charges former MPD Officer Antoine Owens with conspiracy to violate civil rights and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Last month, former MPD Officer Alexander Johnson pleaded guilty to his role in the alleged conspiracy. The federal trial against Sease and Owens is scheduled to begin on September 17, 2007.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In a related matter, reserve MPD Officer Andrew Hunt was sentenced to 19 years in prison in December 2006 for his role in the alleged civil rights conspiracy.
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.
These cases are being jointly investigated 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 cases.