FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 27, 2012
For Information Contact:
Former District of Columbia Department of Corrections Officer
Sentenced to 10 Months in Jail for Civil Rights Violation
- Admitted Striking Inmate During Confrontation -
WASHINGTON – A former District of Columbia Department of Corrections Officer, Victor Bell, 25, has been sentenced to 10 months in jail, and two additional months of home confinement, after earlier pleading guilty to a criminal civil rights charge for assaulting an inmate in the District of Columbia Central Detention Facility (D.C. Jail).
The sentence 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 in April 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of deprivation of rights under color of law, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months of incarceration. He was sentenced on July 26, 2012 by the Honorable Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who also ordered that Bell perform 150 hours of community service.
As part of the plea agreement, Bell has resigned from the Department of Corrections and agreed to never again seek employment as a law enforcement officer.
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. Bell then grabbed the inmate by the shoulder, pushed him into a corner of the corridor, and began punching him repeatedly in the head. 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.
“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to holding everyone, including members of law enforcement, accountable for violating the civil rights of others,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Most law enforcement officers meet the high standard we set for them, but when some abuse their authority and violate civil rights, we will hold them criminally responsible. No one is undeserving of the law’s protection, and no one is too powerful to avoid the law’s consequences.”
“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. “This sentencing was a just outcome and demonstrates the Justice Department’s resolve to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws.”
“Victor Bell abused the power afforded to him as a corrections officer,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “As the lead agency for enforcing federal civil rights laws, the FBI will continue to pursue justice against those who betray the trust placed in them by our government and who deprive any individual of their civil rights.”
In announcing the sentence, 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.