WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that Leon Pullen, 32, of Foley, Mo., pleaded guilty to civil rights violations stemming from several incidents where he sexually assaulted and stole money from women. Pullen was a police officer employed by the Uplands Park Police Department in suburban St. Louis.
According to court documents, on July 15, 2009, Officer Pullen responded to an advertisement placed on the Internet by a woman who posted her picture and contact information as a prostitute. Pullen contacted the woman via cell phone and identified himself as “Jimmy,” and without identifying himself as a police officer, arranged to meet her at a specific location in Uplands Park. He agreed to pay $400 for sexual acts, and also asked her to bring a friend. When they arrived, a police vehicle pulled behind her car. Pullen, who was on duty and dressed in full uniform, including a badge and sidearm, approached her, showed her the ad she had posted on the Internet, and demanded to know how much money she had with her. Pullen made her follow him to the police station, where he sexually assaulted her.
In February or March of 2009, Pullen answered another ad from a different woman and arranged to meet her at a hotel room that she had rented in St. Louis. When he arrived, he was wearing a blue jacket over a gray golf shirt that had a police badge embroidered onto the front with the words “Detective Pullen.” Once inside, he identified himself as a police officer and told her that she was under arrest. He displayed his firearm and handcuffs. After he sexually assaulted her, he took $100 in cash and her laptop computer. The victim told the FBI later that she was initially afraid to report the assault when it happened because Pullen identified himself as a police officer.
Pullen sexually assaulted two more women using the same tactics in May and June 2009.
Following his arrest on Sept. 20, 2009, Pullen gave a voluntary statement to the FBI. First, he told the agents that he had never taken money from the victims, and denied to the FBI that he had ever engaged in sexual activity - consensual or otherwise - while on-duty.
“An officer’s badge entrusts him or her with a great deal of power. Officers who abuse that power, as was done in this case, must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
Pullen pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to deprive individuals of their rights under color of law, four felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one felony count of conspiracy to commit interference with commerce by color of right, one felony count of interference with commerce by color of right, one felony count of tampering with a witness and one felony count of making false statements.
These charges carry penalty ranges of five years to life in prison. Sentencing has been set for Oct. 15, 2010, before Judge Rodney W. Sippel.
This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Marcus and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Eric Gibson.