Two Puerto Rico Police Officers Sentenced for Federal Civil Rights Charges Related to Fatal Assault
WASHINGTON – U.S. District Court Judge Daniel R. Dominguez sentenced former San Juan, Puerto Rico,Police Officers, Aaron Vidal Maldonado and Jose Pacheco Cruz today for their roles in the fatal assault by San Juan officers against Jose Rivera Robles, an unarmed civilian, the Justice Department announced.
Vidal Maldonado received a sentence of 200 months in prison and five years of supervised release after conviction at trial for using excessive force, resulting in death, and for committing various obstruction of justice offenses. Pacheco Cruz received a sentence of 57 months in prison and two years supervised release after conviction at trial for obstructing the commonwealth and federal investigations into the circumstances surrounding Rivero Robles’ death.
At trial, the government presented evidence that on July 20, 2003, in the course of arresting the victim at a Citgo gas station, co-defendants Juan Morales Rosado, Carlos Pagan Ferrer, Elias Perocier Morales and Eliezer Rivera Gonzalez repeatedly kicked and otherwise assaulted Rivera Robles when he was lying face down on the ground, in no way resisting or posing a threat to the officers. AaronVidal Maldonado, the senior officer on the scene, pinned Rivero Robles to the ground during the beating and did nothing to discourage the excessive force used by his subordinates.
After this beating, Vidal Maldonado directed officers to transport the badly injured, semiconscious victim to a nearby police station where co-defendant Elias Perocier Morales again brutally assaulted the victim in Vidal Maldonado’s presence. After this second beating, instead of immediately seeking medical attention for the victim, Vidal Maldonado directed his subordinates to dump the victim on the floor of the police station. Soon after, the injuries to the victim caused by the beatings resulted in Rivero Robles’ death.
"Law enforcement officers who use their badges as an excuse to commit egregious acts of violence are an affront to the rule of law," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute officers who abuse their power in this manner."
"Our citizens have a right to just, fair and equal treatment from all law enforcement officers and we, as public servants, must never forget that we have sworn an oath to serve and protect them," said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue prosecuting these crimes to the full extent of the law."
The other co-defendants in this case have already been sentenced for their roles in the beating. On Dec. 20, 2009, co-defendants Elias Perocier Morales and Eliezer Rivera Gonzalez were sentenced to ten years in prison and six-and-a-half years in prison, respectively. On March 25, 2010, Juan Morales Rosado and Carlos Pagan Ferrer were both sentenced to ten years in prison.
Special Agent Luis Rivero of the FBI’s San Juan Office investigated this matter. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Antonio Bazan, Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.