Four Puerto Rico Police Officers Convicted of Federal Civil Rights Charges Related to Fatal Assault
WASHINGTON – A federal jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, found four San Juan Municipal Police Officers guilty today of felony federal civil rights charges related to the fatal beating of Jose Antonio Rivera Robles, announced Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, and Luis S. Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.
On July 20, 2003, Aaron Vidal Maldonado, Juan Morales Rosales and Carlos Pagan Ferrer, along with other officers, aided and abetted each other in the brutal assault of Rivera Robles during an arrest in Carolina, Puerto Rico, evidence at trial showed.
Vidal Maldonado, a supervisor and sergeant at the time of the beating, was convicted on four charges: one for violating the victim’s civil rights by aiding and abetting others who beat him and another for violating his civil rights by failing to keep him from harm, both of which resulted in bodily injury and death; obstructing justice by providing false statements during the local investigation of the assault; and a felony charge for providing a false statement to the FBI.
Juan Morales Rosado was convicted on four charges: a civil rights charge for assaulting Rivera Robles, resulting in bodily injury; an obstruction of justice charge for providing false statements in the local investigation; a felony charge for lying to the FBI; and a fourth count for committing perjury before a federal grand jury investigating the assaults.
Carlos Pagan Ferrer was convicted on three charges: one federal civil rights charge for assaulting Rivera Robles, resulting in bodily injury; an obstruction of justice charge for providing false statements during the local investigation; and a third felony charge for making a false statement to the FBI.
A fourth defendant, Jose Pacheco Cruz, was acquitted of violating Rivera Robles’ civil rights, but was convicted of one felony count of obstruction of justice for providing false statements during the local investigation and one felony count for making a false statement to the FBI.
"Police officers are given tremendous power to serve and protect the public. For those rogue officers who abuse that power and violate the public trust, today’s verdict should send a strong message that they will be prosecuted and face justice in a court of law," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "I congratulate the team of investigators and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to secure this important conviction."
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico. It is unconscionable that those called upon to protect the public and enforce the law should violate their oath of office and abuse their position to deprive people of their most basic civil liberties. People need to have confidence in the fundamental fairness of our law enforcement agencies and in the rights bestowed upon them by our Constitution," said U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez.
The civil rights charges for the defendants’ conduct that resulted in Rivera Robles’ death are punishable by sentences of up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The other civil rights charges are punishable by sentences of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Co-defendants Eliezer Rivera Gonzalez and Elias Perocier Morales previously pleaded guilty to felony federal civil rights charges for participating in the assaults, including acknowledging that those assaults caused bodily injury and death. Sentencing hearings for those co-defendants have been set for Sept. 18, 2009.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Antonio R. Bazan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.