Former Puerto Rico Police Officers Sentenced for Civil Rights and Obstruction of Justice Violations Related to Fatal Beating
Former Puerto Rico Police Officers Jimmy Rodriguez Vega and David Colon Martinez were sentenced today for civil rights and obstruction of justice violations related to the fatal beating of Jose Luis Irizarry Perez, 19, announced Principal Deputy 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. Rodriguez Vega was sentenced to serve 33 months months in prison for violating Irizarry Perez’s civil rights by striking him with a police baton during the incident, and Colon Martinez was sentenced to serve 24 months for making false statements to a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and to the federal grand jury during the federal civil rights investigation.
With the issuance of today’s sentences, all six former Puerto Rico police officers who pled guilty for their roles in the beating and obstruction of the subsequent civil rights investigation have been sentenced. According to documents filed in connection with the underlying guilty pleas, Rodriguez Vega and former Puerto Rico Police Sergeant Erick Rivera Nazario violated the constitutional rights of Irizarry Perez by striking him with their police batons while Colon Martinez physically restrained Irizarry Perez during an election evening celebration at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008. As part of his guilty plea, Rodriguez Vega admitted that after Rivera Nazario struck Irizarry Perez, while he was restrained and not posing a threat to any officer, Rodriguez Vega swung his own police baton as if it were a baseball bat into the victim’s forehead. In conjunction with his guilty plea, Colon Martinez admitted that he falsely told the FBI and the grand jury that he did not see anyone else hit Irizarry Perez, whereas in truth he observed Rodriguez Vega and Rivera Nazario swing their batons into Irizarry Perez’s head and upper body, after which the victim collapsed to the ground.
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 defendants will be under federal supervision, and risk additional prison time should they violate any terms of their supervised release.
“The former police officers convicted for their roles in the fatal beating and obstruction of the subsequent investigation violated their sworn oaths to the young victim, his family, and the public at large,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Unfortunately, egregious civil rights violations by a few individuals, such as in this case, damage the public’s trust in law enforcement. That’s why the department will steadfastly continue to investigate and prosecute these matters, but also work with law enforcement to rebuild that trust and ensure all individuals’ civil rights are protected under the law.”
“Today’s sentencing brings a measure of justice to the family of Jose Luis Irizarry Perez,” said U.S. Attorney Rodriguez-Vélez. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office reaffirms its commitment to vigorously prosecute those who abuse their power and official positions at the expense of constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.”
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.