Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Former Gary, Indiana, Police Chief Sentenced for Federal Civil Rights Violation

WASHINGTON – Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division announced today that Thomas Houston, former Chief of the Gary, Ind., Police Department, was sentenced to 41 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for violating the civil rights of a Gary resident in June 2007.

Houston was convicted in Sept. 2008 of assaulting the victim, identified in court documents as V.A., by striking and kicking him in the stomach while he was handcuffed, resulting in contusions to his face, head, chest and abdomen. Houston, a 42-year veteran of the department, had been chief for just seven days when he committed the assault. He resigned from the post shortly after being indicted in March 2008.

Evidence presented during the six-day trial revealed that Houston’s home was burglarized on June 1, 2007, and that he incorrectly believed that a neighbor was responsible for the burglary. Houston summoned on-duty officers to leave their posts and accompany him to the neighbor’s home. V.A., who was visiting a friend in the home, was handcuffed, dragged out of the home and assaulted by Houston. He was then jailed for four days before being released. No evidence was found linking the victim to the burglary, which remains unsolved.

"Police officers are given tremendous authority and responsibility so that they can protect and serve the public trust," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "Those who abuse that authority face serious consequences. The Civil Rights Division is committed to prosecuting all cases of official misconduct and to bringing these individuals to justice."

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

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014