Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Former Velda City, Mo., Reserve Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights and Obstruction Charges

WASHINGTON - A former Velda City, Mo., auxiliary reserve police officer pleaded guilty today to violating the federal civil rights of a woman he sexually assaulted during a traffic stop and to concealing evidence of his crime from federal investigators, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway for the Eastern District of Missouri.

According to facts presented in court, on or about July 9, 2006, Joe Ernest Phillips, 38, then an auxiliary reserve police officer for the Velda City Police Department sexually assaulted a woman while acting under color of law and deprived her of her civil rights. While on-duty in a marked patrol car, Phillips admitted he pulled the female motorist over and searched her purse and the interior and trunk of her car. After completing his search, Phillips instructed the victim to follow him in her car to a poorly lit and isolated parking lot where he sexually assaulted her.

Phillips also admitted that after the sexual assault, he repeatedly lied to the FBI during its inquiry, and concealed evidence in an effort to thwart the federal investigation into his crime.

"Law enforcement officers who betray the public trust by stepping outside the law to assault and abuse the rights of others will be vigorously prosecuted," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General. "This shameful and unlawful conduct undermines the tireless efforts of the vast majority of law enforcement officers who perform their duties with honor and professionalism."

U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber scheduled sentencing for April 30, 2009. Phillips faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine for the civil rights violation. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for destroying evidence.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis Division and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Avner Shapiro of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith.

09-108