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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Former Lee County, Mississippi, Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations

WASHINGTON – Michael Shane Minich, 35, a former Lee County, Miss., Sheriff’s Deputy, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock, in Aberdeen, Miss., to depriving citizens of their civil rights under color of law by secretly removing cash from their wallets during traffic stops, the Justice Department announced today.

The four-count information to which Mr. Minich pleaded guilty alleged that he deprived four different individuals, all of whom were Hispanic, of their constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. Each offense carries a maximum possible penalty of one year in prison, one year of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. As an additional condition of his plea, Mr. Minich agrees to make no attempt at any time to regain his Mississippi Law Enforcement Professional Certification.

"A law enforcement officer who abuses his authority by depriving citizens of their civil rights not only violates the law, but also the public trust," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez for the Civil Rights Division said. "We will aggressively prosecute any law enforcement officer inclined to violate the most basic constitutional rights of our citizens."

"It is reprehensible when a law enforcement officer commits a crime against the people he has sworn to protect," stated Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. "Citizens have the right to demand the highest level of competence and integrity from all law enforcement officers and anything less will not be tolerated. The investigation and prosecution of the small minority who abuse their positions continues to be a top priority for the FBI. I commend the investigators, the prosecutors and, especially Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, for their professional handling of this matter.  Sheriff Johnson personally brought the actions of former deputy Minich to the attention of the FBI and worked hand in hand with our agents assigned to the Tupelo office during this investigation. "

Sheriff Johnson stated: "I want to thank the FBI and Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen, as well as the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi, for their assistance in this matter. The working relationship that my office has with the FBI allowed us to work together to investigate and prosecute this crime. My office will not tolerate this type of behavior from anyone, especially from someone that has sworn to uphold the law. Our goal was not only to see that justice was done, but to ensure that Mr. Minich would no longer be in a position to do this again."

This case was investigated by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Tupelo, Miss., office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert W. Coleman, II, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

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