Former Probation Officer in Oregon Charged with Civil Rights Violations
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Mark John Walker, 51, of Eugene, Ore., in an eight-count indictment stemming from multiple incidents in which Walker allegedly sexually abused female offenders who were under his direct supervision as a probation officer, and then obstructed a later investigation to cover up his misconduct.
Walker is charged with three felonies for allegedly engaging in aggravated sexual abuse against three different women between December 2006 and June 2009. He is charged with two misdemeanors for allegedly engaging in sexual contact with two different women between April 2005 and September 2006. In addition, the indictment charges Walker with making a false statement to the FBI, intimidating and threatening a witness, and falsifying a record in order to obstruct the investigation. Walker appeared today before U.S. Magistrate John Acosta, and entered a plea of not guilty. Magistrate Acosta released the defendant pending a trial date of Sept. 14, 2010, ordering Walker’s release subject to pre-trial release conditions.
The indictment alleges that Walker, in his capacity as a U.S. probation officer, deprived persons under his supervision of their civil rights. Walker supervised offenders who were serving probation or supervised release terms imposed by a federal judge, including offenders with vulnerable backgrounds involving sexual abuse, mental illness and drug addiction. Walker was required to accurately report his contacts with each offender under his supervision, and to report each offender’s conduct to the federal judge who had sentenced her. Walker had the power to recommend that offenders who violated their conditions of probation or supervised release be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned. Walker was bound by the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, and was responsible for complying with the U.S. Constitution, as well as all federal, state and local laws.
Walker is charged with willfully depriving five different female offenders of their constitutional right to bodily integrity, while acting under color of law, by engaging in aggravated sexual abuse or sexual contact. Walker is also charged with making a false statement to the FBI by stating that he recorded all of his contacts with one of the female offenders in a record-keeping system used by the U.S. Probation Office, when he had not done so. He is also charged with intimidating, threatening and corruptly persuading the same female offender not to tell authorities about the sexual activity that was related to the commission of a civil rights violation by telling her "you know what I can do." Finally, he is charged with one count of falsifying and making false entries in records and documents at the U.S. Probation Office with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence the investigation.
"Acts of sexual abuse by an employee of our federal court system against persons committed to his custody will not be tolerated by the U.S. Department of Justice," said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. "The Civil Rights Division will work with our partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to aggressively investigate and prosecute all such allegations."
"Government service is an honor and a privilege – to use a government position to sexually exploit others is appalling," said U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. "We stand ready to enforce and defend the civil rights of all Oregonians from such exploitation."
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, each of the three felony civil rights charges carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Walker also faces one year in prison for each of the misdemeanor civil rights charges, five years in prison for the false statement charge, and 20 years in prison for both the witness tampering and falsification of records charges.
"All persons sworn to serve the public violate a sacred trust when they use their position for personal or criminal ends. Violation of the oath of office is one of the most significant offenses we deal with. We take this kind of crime very seriously," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Arthur Balizan.
The case has been investigated by the FBI in Eugene. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pamala Holsinger and Hannah Horsley are handling the prosecution, along with Civil Rights Division Criminal Section Trial Attorney Eric L. Gibson.