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July 8, 2011

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Former Port Isabel Detention Officer Charged With Violating Civil Rights of Detainee

Grand jury alleges excessive use of force, obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A sealed federal indictment returned by a McAllen grand jury on June 7, 2011, charging former Port Isabel Detention Center (PIDC) lieutenant Raul Leal with using excessive force on a detainee, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent was unsealed today following Leal’s arrest, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division.

Leal, 31, formerly of Harlingen, Texas, and currently of Quitman, Ga., was arrested by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) in Albany, Ga., today without incident. He made an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Albany and has been ordered released on bond. The case will be prosecuted in the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas and Leal is expected to appear for arraignment on the charges on a date to be set by the court in the near future.

The three-count indictment was returned as a result of an investigation conducted by special agents of the McAllen field office of DHS-OIG regarding an incident which occurred on June 14, 2009, at the PIDC. According to the indictment, on that date, Leal allegedly assaulted an immigrant detainee by kicking him in the face resulting in a fracture of the detainee’s orbital bone. The indictment also accuses Leal of obstruction of justice alleging he knowingly concealed, covered up, falsified and made false entries in a detention center report dated June 15, 2009, about the incident as well as making a false statement to DHS-OIG agents when, in September 2009, he claimed the detainee had sustained the facial fracture when the detainee’s face inadvertently struck his knee.

The violation of civil rights charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment, upon conviction, while a conviction for obstruction of justice is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Making false statements to a federal agent carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment upon conviction. All three counts carry a maximum fine of up to $250,000 as possible punishment.
Assistant United States Attorney Kebharu Smith of the Southern District of Texas and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Saeed Mody are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt.
The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.