Former Puerto Rico Police Officer Sentenced for Civil Rights Violations Related to Fatal Beating
Former Puerto Rico Police Sergeant Erick Rivera Nazario was sentenced today to serve 96 months in prison followed by three years supervised release for violating the civil rights of Jose Luis Irizarry Perez, 19, by striking him with a police baton during a fatal police-involved beating, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
Rivera Nazario pleaded guilty to one count of depriving Irizarry Perez of his civil rights by striking him with a police baton while the young man was injured, restrained, and not posing a threat to others. Two other former Puerto Rico police officers have already been sentenced for their obstructive conduct during the federal investigation into the incident, while three other former Puerto Rico police officers, who also pleaded guilty, are awaiting sentencing for their roles in the beating and subsequent obstruction of the investigation. According to documents filed in connection with the guilty pleas, Rivera Nazario and another former Puerto Rico police officer violated the constitutional rights of Irizarry Perez by striking him with their police batons while another former police officer physically restrained Irizarry Perez during an election evening celebration at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan M. Perez Gimenez issued the sentence, which will be followed by three years of supervised release. During the three-year term, the defendant will be under federal supervision, and risks additional prison time should he violate any terms of his supervised release.
“The department remains steadfastly committed to prosecuting excessive force by police officers and today’s sentence reflects the severity of such criminal conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Although nothing can replace the tragic loss of life that resulted from the police-involved beating, I hope that this sentence helps to provide some sense of closure for Jose Luis Irizarry Perez’s family.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to defend the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico,” said U.S. Attorney Rodriguez-Vélez. “It is appalling that law enforcement officers choose to violate their oath of office and abuse their position to deprive people of their civil liberties.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division and is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorneys Shan Patel and Olimpia E. Michel of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras of the District of Puerto Rico.