WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Memphis, Tenn., today found Arthur Sease IV, a former Memphis Police Department officer, guilty on forty-four counts of civil rights, narcotics, robbery and firearms offenses, Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi for the Western District of Tennessee announced.
The evidence at trial showed that from November 2003 through April 2006, Sease conspired with other Memphis police officers to use their authority as law enforcement officers, including their service weapons, to rob suspected drug dealers of cash, cocaine and marijuana. Sease and his co-conspirators would then resell the stolen drugs for their own profit. The government introduced proof of 16 separate robberies, as well as one attempted robbery. In each robbery, Sease or another uniformed Memphis police officer, would pull over a car containing suspected drug dealers and steal whatever drugs and cash that they found.
According to evidence presented at trial, Sease conspired with other Memphis drug dealers to arrange drug deals so that he could rob the other dealers when they arrived. On one occasion, evidence showed that Sease had a co-conspirator resell cocaine that Sease had stolen from one drug dealer to another drug dealer. Sease then pulled the buyer’s car over, stole the cocaine again and resold it. Sease and his co-conspirators kidnapped several drug dealers in an effort to get them to set up additional drug deals for Sease to rob.
Sease was a Memphis police officer from 2001 through 2005. He was discharged in 2005 for misconduct relating to one of the robberies. After he was fired, one of Sease’s co-conspirators, Andrew Hunt, became a Memphis reserve police officer and the two continued to rob drug dealers while pretending to be police officers, according to evidence presented at trial.
Five other individuals have already pleaded guilty in this case. Hunt pleaded guilty in September 2006 to a federal civil rights conspiracy, robbery affecting interstate commerce and drug distribution, and was sentenced in December 2006 to 19 years in prison. Former Memphis police officers Antoine Owens, Harold McCall and Alexander Johnson pleaded guilty to civil rights conspiracy charges and are currently awaiting sentencing. Laterrica Woods, a civilian who helped Sease and Hunt with one of their robberies, also pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2009.
"It is a shame that as crime in our community is ever present that we have to spend our limited resources on investigating and prosecuting those people who have taken an oath to serve and protect our community," said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. "Effective law enforcement begins with honest law enforcement. We will continue to vigorously and tirelessly investigate and prosecute those law enforcement officials who break the law. Our community demands honest law enforcement."
"The city of Memphis put its trust in Arthur Sease to protect and serve, and Arthur Sease abused that trust," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division. "A badge is not a license to do what you want; it carries an obligation to do what is right."
"It is never easy to investigate one of your own; however, civil rights and public corruption investigations remain a top priority," said Perrye K. Turner, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office. "Citizens have the right to expect honest services from its law enforcement officers, at the local, state and federal levels. The FBI will continue to work in cooperation with its partners to identify, investigate and prosecute those who would violate the public’s trust for personal gain."
"This represents a very small percentage of the fine men and women in blue. Those officers who choose to violate the law and the trust of our citizens will face harsh punishment. The Memphis Police Department will continue to work with the federal and local government agencies to send the message that criminal activities involving Memphis police officers will not be tolerated," said Police Director Larry Godwin. "The shield of law enforcement shall not be tarnished," added Godwin.
Sease faces a minimum punishment of 275 years in prison. A sentencing date has been set for May 14, 2009.
This case was investigated by Special Agents Tracey Harris, Maria Irizarri and Jaime Corman from the FBI’s Memphis Division and Sergeants Matt Whittington and Billy Greenwood of the Memphis Police Department Security Squad. Officers Tony Parks and Thurmond Richardson contributed to the initial investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Parker from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti from the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit unreasonable search and seizure, deprivation of property without due process of law, or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement and other government officials. In FY2008, the 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.