FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 26, 2012
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Former D.C. Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Criminal Civil Rights Charge in January 2012 Incident at the D.C. Jail
- Admits Striking Inmate During Confrontation -
WASHINGTON – A former District of Columbia Department of Corrections Officer, Victor Bell, 25, pled guilty today to a criminal civil rights charge for assaulting an inmate in the District of Columbia Central Detention Facility (D.C. Jail).
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Bell pled guilty before the Honorable Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of deprivation of rights under color of law. He faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for July 11, 2012.
As part of the plea agreement, Bell agreed to resign from the Department of Corrections and to never again seek employment as a law enforcement officer, in any capacity and in any jurisdiction. In addition, he has agreed to perform 150 hours of community service.
During the plea proceedings, Bell admitted that on Jan. 4, 2012, he became upset with an inmate who was expressing his disapproval of a pat-down search that Bell was conducting of another inmate in a third-floor corridor. Bell then began following the disapproving inmate as he started to walk away. Bell confronted him chest-to-chest, and the inmate again attempted to walk away. After handing off his eyeglasses to another D.C. Jail employee, Bell once again followed the inmate, and with both hands, pushed him in the back.
As the confrontation continued, Bell grabbed the inmate by the shoulder, pushed him into a corner of the corridor, and began punching him repeatedly in the head. In addition, Bell grabbed the inmate’s dreadlocks, pulling one out. Even after another corrections officer called for assistance, Bell continued punching the inmate until other officers pulled him away.
At no point during the incident did the inmate physically fight the defendant. The inmate, who was disoriented, was taken to the infirmary, where a cut to his right eye was sutured.
“No one is above the law, and no one is undeserving of the law’s protection,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “In the District of Columbia, we expect corrections officers to perform their duties as professionals, which the vast majority do under challenging circumstances every day. This prosecution illustrates the strength of our commitment to vindicating the civil rights of all people.”
“While the vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their duties with great care and honor, those who seek to violate the civil rights of those in their custody will be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez.“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute officers who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal conduct.”
“Today, Victor Bell admitted to abusing the power afforded to him as a corrections officer,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “This investigation and guilty plea demonstrate that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will pursue justice against anyone who deprives another individual of their civil rights.”
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Attorney General Perez and Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin thanked those who investigated the case, including the Special Agents of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, as well as Ben Collins of the Office of Internal Affairs of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. They also thanked Legal Assistant Krishawn Graham, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who provided assistance. Finally, they commended the efforts of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean Sexton, of the Civil Rights Unit of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney William Nolan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.12-150