WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that Neal Wayne “Bear” Groom, former sheriff of the Worth County, Mo., Sheriff’s Office, pleaded guilty to depriving eight Missouri women of their civil rights by coercing the women to expose parts of their bodies to him, which was in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures .
As part of the plea, Groom admitted that while he was sheriff of Worth County, he coerced the women into exposing unclothed parts of their bodies to him and that he photographed some of the women, which in some cases included their exposed breasts. Groom used the guise of checking the women for injuries or evidence of drug injections to coerce the women into revealing different parts of their bodies to him. By pleading guilty, Groom admitted that he invaded the personal privacy of the victims by coercing them to expose their breasts to him for no legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Groom faces a maximum punishment of 12 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $100,000 for each of the eight counts.
“Such egregious misconduct by those entrusted to uphold our laws will not be tolerated,” stated Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases.”
“Law enforcement officials are not above the law,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Beth Phillips. “When they abuse their authority by violating the civil rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect, they will be held accountable.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.