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Tuesday, September 30, 2008
(202) 514-2007
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Gary, Indiana Former Police Chief Convicted on Federal Civil Rights Violation

WASHINGTON - Thomas Houston, former chief of the Gary, Indiana Police Department was convicted today on a felony civil rights violation for using excessive force. The jury acquitted Houston on other charges and also acquitted Houston’s former deputy chief, Thomas Branson, and Sgt. Thomas Decanter in the case.

The jury found that Houston used excessive force during the arrest of Victor Adams Jr., of Gary, during a June 1, 2007, incident that gave rise to a federal civil rights indictment. The indictment alleged that Houston and Branson illegally entered a private residence in Gary and that Houston then assaulted people inside the house. The then-chief was also charged with falsely arresting three individuals without legal justification.

At trial, a fellow police officer testified that he saw Houston repeatedly kick Victor Adams while Adams was handcuffed on the ground. When Houston took the stand in his own defense, he admitted that he had kicked Adams, but claimed that he had only done so one time, in reaction to Adams having kicked him in the shin.

Houston faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing date is pending.

"Abuse of law enforcement authority is a grave offense and undermines the work of the vast majority of public servants who serve with honor every day," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker. "It erodes citizens’ trust in government at the most basic and fundamental level, and must be prosecuted accordingly."

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Betsy Biffl and Erin Aslan of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.