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Press Release

Former Michigan Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Civil Rights Offense for Using Excessive Force on Arrestee

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A former police officer with the Warren Police Department in Michigan pleaded guilty today to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.

Matthew Rodriguez, 49, pleaded guilty to using excessive force against an arrestee while fingerprinting and photographing him at a local detention facility.

“This police officer carried out a violent assault on a man who was doing nothing to harm or endanger him and then tried to cover up his crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Police officers are not above the law in our country and will be held accountable when they violate people’s civil and constitutional rights. When law enforcement abuses their authority, it erodes trust between the police and the community they are sworn to protect and serve. The Justice Department stands ready and willing to investigate and prosecute any police officer who unlawfully uses excessive force against those in their custody.”  

“The defendant’s actions in this case were shocking and flagrantly violate the standards of conduct we expect of all sworn law enforcement officers,” U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan. “This investigation, and today’s guilty plea, reflect my office’s commitment to protecting the rights of every citizen in the community, even those who are accused of committing crimes.”

“Police officers are trusted to determine when force is necessary and when it deprives people of their civil rights,” said Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “FBI investigations like these are key to removing abusive officers from law enforcement and a step towards restoring trust with the community.” 

According to court documents, on June 13, 2023, then-officer Rodriguez was fingerprinting and photographing an arrestee, identified in court documents only as J.S., who had recently been brought to the Warren Police Department’s jail for processing. After taking J.S.’s fingerprints, Rodriguez struck J.S. multiple times and slammed J.S.’s head against the floor, causing injury to J.S. When Rodriguez began to assault him, J.S. was not physically resisting Rodriguez and posed no immediate threat to anyone.

During the plea hearing, Rodriguez admitted that he knew that his use of force against J.S. was unreasonable and contrary to department policy, and that he wrote a report in which he made false statements about the incident and omitted material information. J.S. suffered bodily injury from the beating.

The Warren Police Department publicly released footage of the assault in June 2023.

Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on August 20. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.  

The FBI Detroit Field Office investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moran for the Eastern District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Alec Ward of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

Updated April 8, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-411