Former Bernalilo County Corrections Officer Sentenced to Prison for Obstructing Justice
The Justice Department announced today that Kevin Casaus, 24, a former corrections officer at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced this morning to serve 15 months in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release for his conviction on obstruction of justice and falsification of records charges.
Casaus and fellow former MDC corrections officers, Demetrio Juan Gonzales, 41, and Matthew Pendley, 26, were indicted in June 2012, and charged with various crimes related to the Dec. 21, 2011 assault of an inmate housed at MDC, and subsequent attempts to cover up and impede the investigation of the assault.
On March 6, 2013, a federal jury convicted Casaus on obstruction of justice and falsification of records charges, and acquitted him on a related assault charge. According to the evidence at trial, during the early morning hours of Dec. 21, 2011, Gonzales was assigned to the Receiving-Discharge-Transfer (RDT) Unit at MDC where individuals are brought to be booked soon after they are arrested. His job was to photograph and fingerprint those who are brought to RDT for booking. The victim, who had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, was verbally uncooperative during the booking process, but was not a physical threat to anyone. Gonzales, who had previously pleaded guilty, testified that he became angry at the victim and walked him to the shower room where he knew there were no surveillance cameras. Several other corrections officers, including Casaus, followed Gonzales to the shower room. There, Gonzales physically assaulted the victim, striking him multiple times, and choking him. Gonzales testified that he beat the victim “in a blind rage” and then had to wash the victim’s blood off his hands. He further testified that the victim did not do anything to justify the beating.
According to the testimony, Casaus and two other corrections officers were present in the shower room during the beating. Additionally, a former inmate who was in the hallway outside the shower room at the time of the beating, overheard groans and sounds consistent with the assault coming from the shower room. The former inmate was then tasked with cleaning the blood that was on the floors and walls of the shower room. Casaus falsely stated during a recorded interview with a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office investigator that the victim was not assaulted in the shower room, the victim was not bleeding and that they only brought the victim to the shower room to ask him to change out of his clothes. Casaus falsified his report when he wrote that he saw blood on the victim's clothes, but did not know where the blood came from.
In October 2012, Gonzales pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of an individual in his custody when he struck and choked the victim in the shower room/dress out area of MDC and subsequently was sentenced to 33 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Pendley pleaded guilty in February 2012 to obstructing justice by making false statements to law enforcement during their investigation of the assault on an inmate and was sentenced to a five year term of probation.
“Law enforcement officers who lie and obstruct justice to cover a fellow officer’s criminal acts do a disservice to the community that they swore to serve and protect,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Jocelyn Samuels. “As the prosecution of these three MDC corrections officers demonstrate, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI, is committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable when they violate their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.”
“A correction officer who actively covers up illegal violence perpetrated by another officer re-victimizes a victim, undermines the public’s confidence in the justice system and fosters a belief that correction officer violence perpetrated on inmates will be met with impunity rather than justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough of the District of New Mexico. “Such a culture cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
“Correctional officers are given tremendous power to enforce the law. When that authority is abused, it's not just the civil rights of prison inmates that are threatened, but the public's trust in our democratic institutions as well,” said Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI. “The FBI, as the lead agency for investigating abuses of government officials, places a high priority on these cases. I would like to commend the FBI Special Agents who worked on this case, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and the Metropolitan Detention Center's executive management and internal affairs staff.”
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark T. Baker for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division.