Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Norman Nicholson (57, Largo) to 24 months in federal prison for depriving an individual of his Fourth Amendment right to a reasonable search and seizure under color of law and one count of knowingly making false entries in a report with the intent to obstruct an investigation within the jurisdiction of a federal agency.
Nicholson had pleaded guilty on March 24, 2020.
According to court documents, while employed as a police officer with Veterans Affairs in Bay Pines, Florida, Nicholson instructed an Army veteran to leave the premises, and the veteran complied. Nicholson then followed the veteran outside and arrested him. In doing so, Nicholson swung the veteran around, and placed both of the veteran’s hands behind his back. The veteran did not resist the arrest and moved his left arm behind his back on his own. After the veteran was already handcuffed and in custody, Nicholson rammed the veteran’s head on the fence. Nicholson then used his right hand to pull the veteran’s legs apart, causing the veteran to fall face first into the fence and then to the ground. Nicholson then forcefully grabbed the veteran from the ground, and lifted him up. While lifting him up, Nicholson used his right hand to grab the veteran from his face and nose.
Nicholson then authored two arrest affidavits and a police report in which he made numerous false statements regarding the incident. Specifically, Nicholson stated that the veteran “refused to leave the property…became resistant…pulled away…raised his hand in an aggressive posture…did not obey commands to stop resisting…resisted on the ground…and buckled his knees in an attempt to make himself dead weight.” Those statements were clearly false, and were made with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence a matter that was within the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
As a result of this arrest, the veteran spent several days in custody at the Pinellas County jail.
“The right of individuals to be safe and secure against unreasonable searches and seizures is at the very cornerstone of our democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Officers who violate their oath to uphold that Constitutional right, and falsify facts to impede or obstruct an investigation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge, VA-Office of Inspector General, stated, “Nicholson’s sentence today demonstrates VA-OIG’s commitment to ensuring that VA’s law enforcement officers are held to the highest standards and that all veterans are afforded their constitutional rights. Veterans should never be subjected to excessive force and false statements by sworn law enforcement officers, whose mission is to safeguard veterans, VA employees and facilities.
"Mr. Nicholson's actions not only violated the victim's civil rights, but created public distrust and doubt toward the law enforcement community. We are pleased with today's sentencing which illustrates the FBI's commitment to take all allegations of civil rights violations seriously," said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division Michael McPherson.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this case. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diego F. Novaes.