Five Puerto Rico Police Department Officers Indicted on Federal Civil Rights, Obstruction of Justice and Perjury Charges
A second superseding indictment against five Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) officers was announced today by Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico; and Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
According to the indictment unsealed today, PRPD Lt. Erick Rivera Nazario, Officer David Colon Martinez and Officer Angel Torres Quinones were indicted on civil rights charges alleging that they violated the constitutional rights of Jose Irizarry Perez while he was celebrating the local election results at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008. Rivera was also charged with violating the civil rights of Irizarry Perez’s father, Jose Irizarry Muniz. In addition, Rivera, Colon, Officer Miguel Negron Vazquez and Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez Caraballo were indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI and a federal grand jury. Torres was indicted for obstruction of justice by providing misleading information to the local prosecutor.
According to the twenty-count second superseding indictment, while Colon held and restrained Irizarry Perez, Rivera and another PRPD officer physically struck Irizarry Perez and assaulted him with a police baton, which resulted in bodily injury to him. In addition, the second superseding indictment charges Torres with striking Irizarry Perez with a police baton, which also resulted in bodily injury to him. The second superseding indictment alleges that Rivera, Colon and Torres thereby deprived Irizarry Perez of his right to be free from unreasonable seizures by those acting under color of law. Although Irizarry Perez died as a result of injuries he sustained on Nov. 5, 2008, the second superseding indictment does not include charges that his death resulted from the defendants’ conduct. Rivera, who was a supervisor at the time of the incident, was also charged with failing to keep Irizarry Perez and his father from harm when an officer whom Rivera supervised assaulted the victims in Rivera’s presence.
In addition, the second superseding indictment alleges that Rivera, Colon, Negron and Rodriguez made false statements concerning the incident to the FBI and to the federal grand jury which had been investigating the incident. Colon and Negron were also charged with obstruction of justice for submitting false police reports and for providing misleading information to the Puerto Rico prosecutor that initially investigated the matter. Rodriguez and Torres were also charged with obstruction of justice for providing misleading information to the Puerto Rico prosecutor, and Rivera was additionally charged with obstruction of justice for submitting a false police report.
Each of the civil rights charges is punishable by a maximum term of ten years in prison. Each count charging obstruction of justice is punishable by a maximum term of twenty years in prison. Each count charging making false statements to the FBI and perjury is punishable by a maximum term of five years in prison. In addition, every charge in the indictment carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the San Juan Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.