Former Port Isabel Detention Officer Charged with Violating Civil Rights of Detainee
Grand Jury Alleges Excessive Use of Force, Obstruction of Justice and Lying to Federal Agents
WASHINGTON – A federal indictment returned by a McAllen, Texas, grand jury on June 7, 2011, charging former Port Isabel Detention Center Lieutenant Raul Leal with using excessive force on a detainee, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent was unsealed today following Leal’s arrest, the Justice Department announced.
Leal, 31, formerly of Harlingen, Texas, and currently of Albany, Ga., was arrested by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) in Albany today without incident. Leal made an initial appearance before a U. S. Magistrate Judge in Albany, Texas, and has been ordered released on bond. The case will be prosecuted in the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas. Leal is expect ed to appear for arraignment on the charges on a date to be set by the court in the near future.
The three count indictment was a result of an investigation conducted by special agents of the McAllen Field Office of DHS-OIG regarding an incident which occurred on June 14, 2009, at the Port Isabel Detention Center. According to the indictment, on that date, Leal allegedly assaulted an immigrant detainee by kicking him in the face resulting in a fracture of the detainee’s orbital bone. The indictment also accuses Leal of obstruction of justice alleging he knowingly concealed, covered up, falsified and made false entries in a detention center report dated June 15, 2009, about the incident. Leal is also charged with making a false statement to DHS-OIG agents when in September 2009 he claimed that the detainee had sustained the facial fracture when the detainee’s face inadvertently struck his knee.
The violation of civil rights charge carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison, upon conviction. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Making false statements to a federal agent carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, upon conviction. All three counts carry a maximum fine of up to $250,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kebharu Smith of the Southern District of Texas and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Saeed Mody are prosecuting this case.