Puerto Rico Police Officers Indicted for Civil Rights Violations and Obstruction of Justice
A 12-count indictment was unsealed today charging four current and former Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) Caguas Drug Unit officers with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice arising out of a police operation conducted in Caguas, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 15, 2015. The indictment alleges that during the police operation, the officers used excessive force against two arrestees and that they unlawfully seized, concealed and destroyed evidence of their misconduct.
The indictment was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico.
According to the indictment, while acting under color of law, POPR Sergeant Maximo Cano Diaz physically struck an individual identified only as A.C.N., resulting in bodily injury. The indictment also alleges that while acting under color of law, POPR Agent Antonio Rodriguez Ortiz assaulted an individual, identified only as G.A.H., by deploying a taser onto G.A.H.’s body, which resulted in bodily injury. Cano, Rodriguez and former POPR Agent Javier Ortiz Gonzalez then commanded an individual, identified only as X.R.C., to stop recording video and surrender her cell phone while pointing a taser at her. The defendants allegedly then pursued X.R.C. to the gate of her home; seized her cell phone, which was used, in part, to record police conduct on or about Aug. 15, 2015; and erased the contents of the cell phone by resetting the phone to its factory settings. On the same day, Cano allegedly seized and kept a cell phone belonging to another individual, identified only as J.R.D., which was also used to record police conduct. According to the allegations, Cano, Ortiz and POPR Agent Iris Rivera Figueroa then made false statements to cover up the conduct.
Cano is charged with four counts of obstruction of justice, three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of making false statements. Ortiz is charged with one count of obstruction of justice, one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of making false statements and one count of perjury. Rodriguez is charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. Rivera is charged with one count of making false statements.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the obstruction of justice charges and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the civil rights violations. The false statements and perjury charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The defendants also face a potential $250,000 fine for each count.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney José Contreras of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer of the Civil Rights Division.