Former Las Cruces Detective Sentenced to Nine Years for Sexually Assaulting Police Department Intern
Michael Garcia, 38, a former detective with the Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was sentenced today for violating the civil rights of an LCPD student intern. Garcia was sentenced to nine years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Garcia also was ordered to forfeit his law enforcement certification and comply with federal and state sex offender registration requirements.
Garcia pled guilty on April 17, 2014, to a one-count information charging him with violating the civil rights of the victim by sexually assaulting her. At the time of the assault, Garcia was assigned to a unit that focused on child abuse and sex crimes investigations. According to court documents, Garcia—in his role as a detective—worked with students who participated in Las Cruces High School’s Excel program, through which students interned at the LCPD. On or about May 4, 2011, Garcia took the victim on a ride-along in his department-issued vehicle to visit a crime scene. Afterward, instead of driving the victim directly back to the police department so that she could retrieve her belongings and go home, Garcia drove her to a secluded location where he sexually assaulted her.
“The defendant abused his authority as a sex crimes detective in the most horrific way, exploiting the victim’s trust in him to commit his egregious acts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute law enforcement officers who use the power of their position to engage in sexual abuse. The victim showed tremendous bravery when she came forward, and we are thankful for the law enforcement officers in this case, as well as the vast majority of others, who support and help victims of crime.”
“Our system of justice is clear and unequivocal – every law enforcement officer must follow the laws they are sworn to enforce,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico. “Any time a law enforcement officer breaks the law it undermines the public’s trust in the legal system, and we will do everything we can to ensure that trust is not compromised.”
“Law enforcement officers receive a lot of authority in order to serve their community, and the majority of them use that power wisely,” said Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “But when an officer tramples on the civil rights of someone he swore to protect, it's up to the FBI and our partners to make sure that violator is investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I would like to thank the Las Cruces Police Department for assisting with this investigation, and congratulate the U.S. Attorney's Office on its successful prosecution.”
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces Resident Agency of Albuquerque Division of the FBI and the LCPD and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Holland S. Kastrin for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.