A former United States Capitol Police (USCP) officer pleaded guilty today to violating an individual’s civil rights by recklessly engaging in a dangerous pursuit and being deliberately indifferent to the danger he created.
Thomas Smith, 46, pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law. According to court documents, on the evening of June 20, 2020, Smith was on duty conducting security checks at the homes of members of Congress in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when he began pursuing two individuals riding motorized cycles. Though USCP policies prohibit vehicular pursuits outside of the Capitol grounds, except in emergencies and upon supervisory approval, Smith conducted the pursuit without seeking such approval.
While following the motorcyclists closely, but without his emergency lights on, Smith’s USCP cruiser struck one of the motorcyclists at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, Northwest. The crash knocked the cyclist into the air before he hit the asphalt roadway. As the victim lay in the intersection unconscious, Smith drove his cruiser around the victim and left the scene of the collision. Contrary to USCP policies, Smith did not notify anyone of the collision, take any action to seek medical assistance for the victim or ensure that no further harm came to the victim as he lay on the road. Hours after the collision, Smith falsified several USCP records related to the incident.
“A federal law enforcement officer who abuses his authority by engaging in reckless and obstructive conduct not only violates the law, but also public trust,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute any law enforcement officer, including those who serve within the ranks of federal law enforcement, when they violate the most basic constitutional rights of our citizens.”
“Like all of our law enforcement partners, we know that the overwhelming majority of U.S. Capitol Police officers do their difficult and dangerous jobs honorably and lawfully,” said U.S. Attorney Mathew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “But former officer Smith violated the Constitution and abused his position by recklessly engaging in a dangerous pursuit that resulted in an unnecessary collision that could have had devastating results. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the civil rights of all District residents and to holding accountable individuals who violate those rights.”
“Contrary to the oath he took as a law enforcement officer and a government employee, Smith endangered and showed disregard for others’ lives,” said Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office. “His guilty plea today demonstrates the FBI’s unwavering pursuit of justice on behalf of the American people."
Smith faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2024. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Washington Field Office investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Sanjay Patel and Laura-Kate Bernstein of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Visser for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.