The Department of Justice announced today that Neal Wayne “Bear” Groom, former sheriff in Worth County, Mo., was sentenced in Kansas City, Mo., for violating the civil rights of eight women while he was working as a law enforcement officer. On Aug. 17, 2011, Groom pleaded guilty to coercing the women to expose parts of their bodies to him, in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches. Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays sentenced Groom to 18 months in prison and one year of supervised release for the eight counts of conviction.
As part of the plea, Groom admitted that while he was sheriff of Worth County, he coerced the women into exposing unclothed parts of their bodies to him and that he photographed several of the women’s exposed or partially covered breasts. Groom mostly used the guise of checking the women for injuries related to domestic violence assaults or checking them for evidence of drug injections to coerce them into revealing different parts of their bodies to him. Groom admitted that he conducted the searches for no legitimate law enforcement purpose.
“The conduct in this case was particularly egregious in that it targeted potential victims of crime,” stated Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “There is no place for such abuse of power in law enforcement, and the Department of Justice will continue to investigate and prosecute these cases across the country.”
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Beth Phillips said, “We will not tolerate law enforcement officers who take advantage of the individuals whom they are sworn to protect. Such individuals shake the public’s confidence in law enforcement and thus harm not only the victims they target but also the community at large.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.