Michael Garcia, a former detective with the Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) in Las Cruces, N.M., who focused on child abuse and sex crimes investigations, pleaded guilty today in federal court to a one count information charging Garcia with violating the civil rights of an LCPD student intern when he sexually abused her while on duty.
According to court documents, as a detective, Garcia worked with students who participated in Las Cruces High School’s Excel program, through which students interned at the LCPD. On or about May 4, 2011, Garcia took the victim on a ride-along in his department-issued vehicle to visit a crime scene. Afterward, instead of driving the victim directly back to the police department so that she could retrieve her belongings and go home, Garcia drove her to a secluded location where he sexually assaulted her.
As part of the plea agreement, Garcia acknowledged that he knew that his actions were against the law and that the victim did not consent to his behavior.
“The defendant exploited his position as a sex crimes detective in a most deplorable way,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute law enforcement officers who use their authority to engage in sexual abuse. We commend the victim for having the courage to come forward, and we are thankful for law enforcement officers in this case, as well as the vast majority of others, who support and help victims of crime.”
In addition to a prison sentence, the terms of the plea agreement require Garcia to forfeit his law enforcement certification and comply with federal and state sex offender registration requirements. A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.
This case is being investigated by the Las Cruces Resident Agency of Albuquerque Division of the FBI and the LCPD and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark T. Baker and Holland S. Kastrin for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.