WASHINGTON – Christopher Huxoll, an 18-year member of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, pleaded guilty today to one count of aggravated assault for striking an unarmed man in the face with his riot baton during a march in 2005. Huxoll faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Russell F. Canan on March 6, 2009.
The incident took place on Jan. 20, 2005, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., during an unauthorized march related to the 2005 Presidential Inauguration. Huxoll was on duty and responded to the Adams Morgan area when some of the marchers began engaging in incidents of vandalism. In his plea hearing, Huxoll acknowledged that he threw the victim to the ground because he believed, erroneously, that the victim had thrown bottles at him and other officers. Huxoll also admitted that, although the victim did not resist and was not aggressive, he grabbed the back of the victim’s head while he was still on the ground, lifted it up and struck the victim across the face with his riot baton. The victim suffered a broken nose, lacerations and abrasions as a result of this assault.
"Most law enforcement officers serve our Nation bravely, but in instances where they not only fail to uphold the law, but willfully break it, the Justice Department will not hesitate to vigorously prosecute," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
"This prosecution serves as an important reminder that although law enforcement officers have a tremendously difficult job, they are expected to perform their duties with the high level of professionalism that is the hallmark of the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers in this country," said Jeffrey Taylor, U.S. Attorney for the District of the District of Columbia. "As the resolution of this case demonstrates, where there is sufficient evidence that excessive force was used by a law enforcement officer, this office will not hesitate to prosecute."
"All law enforcement officers have a duty to protect," said Cathy L. Lanier, Metropolitan Police Department Chief. "Mr. Huxoll’s actions are reprehensible and completely contradictory to what my department stands for. His behavior does nothing but taint the phenomenal work done every day by officers who serve our city with distinction."
The Justice Department is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal civil rights statute, including those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In Fiscal Year 2008, the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section filed the largest ever number of federal criminal civil rights cases in a single year in the Section’s history and the second-highest ever number of official misconduct prosecutions.
The case was investigated by Detective Michael Shuck of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Force Investigation Team. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cummings of the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Edward Chung of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.