Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced today that former North Carolina Department of Correction’s Division of Community Corrections Probation Officer Willie James Steele Jr., 43, has been sentenced for violating the constitutional rights of a female probationer that he was supervising by coercing her into sexual acts on two separate occasions.
According to an indictment and evidence presented in court, Steele supervised the female probationer in 2008 after her probation was transferred to North Carolina from another state and he had the authority to recommend to a court or other agency that the victim be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned if she violated the conditions of her probation. On Dec. 12, 2012, after a two-day trial, a jury found Steele guilty of two civil rights violations for depriving the victim of her constitutional right to bodily integrity by having non-consensual sexual intercourse with her during two separate probation meetings.
Chief Judge Robert J. Conrad, who presided over the trial, sentenced Steele to serve the statutory maximum incarceration of 24 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release, for his convictions at trial.
“Probation officers are given a great deal of power in order to carry out their critical responsibilities, but this officer abused that power and violated the civil rights of a woman under his supervision,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuels. “We will vigorously prosecute any probation officer who uses his position of trust to prey upon those he supervises.”
“Any time a law enforcement officer breaks the law it undermines the public’s trust in the legal system and we will do everything we can to ensure that trust is not compromised,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “My office will prosecute those who abuse their position of power and use it to violate the civil rights of others.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by the Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani Ford from the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division.