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Press Release

Former Tallassee Police Investigator Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Handcuffed Arrestee

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama – Today, Michael Brandon Smirnoff, 27, a former Tallassee Police investigator, pleaded guilty to assaulting a handcuffed, 24-year-old man, announced U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., Assistant Attorney General Eric Drieband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Jewell.

According to the guilty plea, Smirnoff, who was on duty as an investigator with the Tallassee Police Department, used his patrol car to pursue the victim, J.M., who was on a four-wheeler. After the pursuit, J.M. stepped off his four-wheeler, laid face down on the ground, and allowed several Tallassee police officers to handcuff him. While J.M. was handcuffed and compliant, Smirnoff lifted him into the air and then slammed him to the ground. Smirnoff then repeated the assault. Moments later, before Smirnoff placed the victim into his patrol car, Smirnoff slammed the victim’s head into the side of the vehicle. For each assault, the victim was handcuffed, compliant, and did not pose a threat.

“Police officers who willfully use excessive force not only violate the Constitution, they erode the public trust in law enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Drieband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting victims of these abuses and upholding the Constitution and laws that protect us all.”

“It is especially important in a climate of distrust between law enforcement and the public, that officers act ethically and within the bounds of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Franklin. “This police officer’s brutal behavior was unacceptable and criminal. He violated this young man’s constitutional rights and the trust placed in law enforcement officers to faithfully, ethically, and morally enforce the law. You can be sure that anytime an officer steps over the line and into criminal behavior, as this one did, my office will hold that individual accountable.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Jewell stated, "The FBI supports our state and local law enforcement partners but will not tolerate the intentional abuse of a citizen. The position of police officer should convey compassion as well as trust and we intend to hold that line."

Smirnoff faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing hearing is set for July 18, 2019.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Montgomery Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Simpson of the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer of the Civil Rights Division.

Updated April 26, 2019

Civil Rights