WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Phoenix, Ariz., returned a three-count indictment today charging former Navajo Police Officer Christine Thinn and former Navajo Police Sergeant Phillip Bedonie Jr. with federal crimes in connection with the beating of Newton Charlie in January 2009.
Today’s indictment was announced by Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona; and Nathan Thomas Gray, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office.
Thinn is charged with violating Charlie’s constitutional rights by beating him on Jan. 1, 2009. The indictment alleges that Thinn kicked, stomped, struck and deployed Oleoresin Capsicum spray, commonly known as pepper spray, into Charlie’s face, resulting in bodily injury. In addition, the indictment charges Thinn with assaulting Charlie with a dangerous weapon.
The indictment also charges former Bedonie with violating Charlie’s constitutional rights by willfully permitting and failing to prevent Thinn from striking, kicking, beating and otherwise unlawfully assaulting Charlie while he was in their custody. Thinn faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Bedonie faces a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“Law enforcement officers who abuse their power and violate the public trust by denying individuals of their constitutional rights will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Assistant Attorney General Perez said.
“Police officers have a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution when they wear the uniform. They are held to a higher standard that includes respecting the rights of those in their custody and protecting them from harm,” said U.S. Attorney Burke.
“Whenever a law enforcement officer violates an individual’s civil rights it erodes the public’s trust in those who are sworn to uphold the laws of our country,” said Special Agent in Charge Gray. “Today’s indictment illustrates the commitment by the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office to hold accountable law enforcement officials who violate this trust.”
This case, which is ongoing, is being investigated by the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney D.W. Tunnage of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison S. Bachus for the District of Arizona.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.