Arthur Sease IV, a former Memphis Police Department officer, was sentenced today to a prison term of life plus 255 years by Chief Judge Jon P. McCalla in Memphis, Tenn. A jury convicted Sease in February 2009 of 44 counts of civil rights, narcotics, robbery, and firearms offenses.
"The peace and prosperity of our nation hinge on the integrity of our law enforcement officers," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We will continue to vigorously prosecute police corruption both to protect the rights of individuals and to maintain faith in our legal system."
"Effective law enforcement begins with honest law enforcement," said U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi. "We will aggressively pursue and convict those officers and agents who violate the law and the public’s trust. We have entrusted law enforcement officers with our safety and protection and we demand that they perform their duties honestly and truthfully."
"The sentence is extraordinary in that it is one of the longest ever imposed for civil rights violations which did not involve a victim’s death," said My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office. "We will vigorously investigate abuses of authority to defend the fundamental right to ethical behavior by government employees."
"This sentencing sends a serious message that police misconduct will not be tolerated and will be dealt with harshly by our courts. While criminal conduct brings dishonor to those who commit them, this officer’s actions should not reflect negatively on our fellow officers who continue to serve this community with pride and integrity," said Police Director Larry Godwin.
The evidence at trial showed that from November 2003 through April 2006, Sease conspired with other members of the Memphis Police Department to use their authority as law enforcement officers, to rob suspected drug dealers of cash, cocaine, and marijuana. Sease and his co-conspirators would then resell the stolen drugs for their own profit. The government proved that Sease committed or was involved in 15 separate robberies.
Five other individuals had already pleaded guilty in this case. Andrew Hunt was sentenced in February 2009 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in September 2006 to a federal civil rights conspiracy, robbery affecting interstate commerce and drug distribution. Former Memphis police officer Antoine Owens pleaded guilty in August 2007 and received a sentence of 63 months incarceration and three years of supervised release in March 2009. Alexander Johnson, another former Memphis police officer, pleaded guilty in April 2007 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison and two years of supervised release in March 2009. Laterrica Woods, a civilian who helped Sease and Hunt with one of their robberies, also pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy in September 2007 and was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release in April 2009. Harold McCall, also a former Memphis police officer, pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy in a related case in May 2007 and received a sentence of three years probation including one year of home confinement in June 2009.
This case was investigated by Special Agents Tracey Harris, Maria Irizarri and Jaime Corman from the FBI's Memphis Division and Sergeants Matt Whittington and Billy Greenwood of the Memphis Police Department Security Squad. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Parker from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.
U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi specifically commended Memphis officers Tony Parks and Thurmond Richardson for their contribution to the investigation. Testimony at trial revealed the officers learned that a Memphis police officer was robbing drug dealers. Their investigation revealed Hunt as the officer. Richardson and Parks initiated an undercover operation of a planned robbery, resulting in Hunt’s arrest and evidence implicating Seale.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit unreasonable search and seizure, deprivation of property without due process of law and other acts of misconduct by law enforcement and other government officials. More information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and the laws it enforces, is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.