Skip to main content
Press Release

Former New Mexico Sheriff’s Office Deputy Pleads Guilty to Violating Civil Rights of Arrestee and Obstruction of Justice

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Guilty Verdict Obtained Under 2022 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act Enhanced Penalties

A former sheriff’s deputy, Michael A. Martinez, 34, pleaded guilty today to violating the civil rights of a female arrestee by sexually assaulting her inside his patrol car and to obstructing justice by attempting to destroy his patrol car’s WatchGuard DVR system, which had recorded footage from his patrol car’s internal cameras of the sexual assault.

“Police sexual violence targeting women in their custody are heinous crimes that have no place in our society,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant weaponized his authority, exploited the power of his badge, handcuffed the victim and assaulted her in the backseat of his vehicle. We cannot and must not normalize police sexual violence and exploitation. We encourage survivors to find the courage to come forward and report these crimes to the FBI. The Justice Department stands ready to use our federal civil rights laws to seek justice and restitution for survivors of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers and others who abuse their authority.”

“Law enforcement officers serve the innocent and guilty alike” said U.S. Attorney Alexander M. M. Uballez for the District of New Mexico. “Being accused of a crime does not deprive you of the basic human right to dignity and respect. If you abuse your position of authority and betray the oath you swore to the public by sexually assaulting those in your charge, your badge will not shield you from justice.”

“Civil rights violations, particularly when they involve a member of law enforcement, are of tremendous concern,” said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “The entire law enforcement profession is tarnished when an officer betrays the oath to protect and serve. The FBI will vigorously investigate any officer or agent of the law who is breaking the rules that he or she is sworn to uphold or is violating the civil rights of others.”

According to the plea agreement, at the time of the offense, Martinez worked as sheriff’s deputy for the Doña Ana Sheriff’s Office in Doña Ana County, New Mexico. On April 30, 2023, Martinez responded to a car accident and placed the victim under arrest for driving while intoxicated and careless driving. Martinez transported the victim to a medical center and, after the victim received medical clearance, he handcuffed her hands behind her back and put her back inside his patrol car, where he began sexually assaulting her. Afterward, he transported her to the Doña Ana Detention Center.

Several hours later, Martinez attempted to physically destroy his patrol car’s WatchGuard DVR system, which is the patrol car’s internal video camera system that, among other things, records and stores footage from the patrol car’s backseat camera. Martinez, correctly, believed that the DVR system contained a video recording of him sexually assaulting the victim in the backseat of his patrol car and attempted to destroy and conceal that recording from any future investigation. 

A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date. Martinez faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release. In addition, Martinez must pay restitution to the victim and, upon release, adhere to state and federal sex offender registration requirements. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency investigated the case, with assistance from the Doña Ana Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matilda Villalobos for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

Updated April 23, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-501