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The Department of Justice announced today that James G. Litz, 54, of the city of Tonawanda, N.Y., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara, to a felony charge of deprivation of civil rights under the color of law. The offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.
Litz admitted in an executed plea agreement to assaulting and choking a victim on June 21, 2003, while the victim was in the rear of a city of Tonawanda Police vehicle. The plea agreement further detailed that the government had evidence of other incidents involving different victims occurring in 2009, consisting of the defendant poking one victim in the chest, twisting the defendant’s arm and causing pain, and grabbing and choking for a lengthy period of time another victim who happened to be at the scene of an arrest of a different individual. In both of the 2009 incidents, the plea agreement states that after assaulting the victims in the manner described, the defendant arrested the victims for "resisting arrest" and "disorderly conduct."
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 4, 2010, at 12:30 P.M EDT in Buffalo, N.Y., in front of U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.
"I have great respect for officers who enforce the law, but any officer who abuses his or her power and crosses the line as this defendant did must be held accountable," Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez said. "The Department of Justice is committed to aggressively prosecuting any officer who violates the law and the public trust."
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. of the Western District of New York stated that "the nation’s civil rights laws protect people of all race, color and creed. The laws apply to those in positions of power, such as police and jail officials. Those who violate their oaths to protect the public will be found and prosecuted as the facts and the law allow."
FBI Special Agent in Charge James H. Robertson stated, "it is imperative that the Western New York community has full confidence in it police professionals, and that the public understand there are no allegations of systemic corruption within the City of Tonawanda Police Department. The FBI’s Buffalo Office will continue to work closely with its Western New York law enforcement counterparts, including the United States Attorney's Office, to address public corruption at all levels."
The plea was the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of James H. Robertson. Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross and Department of Justice Civil Rights Trial Attorney Shan Patel handled the case.