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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Federal Judge Resentences Birmingham Officer To A Year And A Day In Prison For Using Excessive Force

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today changed a sentence of probation to one year and day in prison for a Birmingham Police officer convicted of using excessive force when he beat a handcuffed defendant in 2007, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr.

U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson resentenced COREY L. HOOPER for depriving the civil rights of Martez Gulley when he repeatedly struck the man with his hands and fists while Gulley was handcuffed and secured in the backseat of a patrol car on Sept. 6, 2007. A federal jury convicted Hooper, 36, in 2012 for depriving Gulley's civil rights while Hooper operated under his authority as a police officer. Hooper must report to prison Dec. 1

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling on a government appeal of the probationary sentence, vacated it in May and returned the case to the federal district court for resentencing. Prosecutors challenged the probationary sentence as unreasonable, arguing it did not satisfy the need for general deterrence of the crime of excessive use of force by police officers. The appeals court held that the original five-year probationary sentence was "substantively unreasonable," and that the district judge had "expressly declined to consider the need for Hooper's sentence to adequately deter other police officers from using excessive force."

"Most police officers honor their oaths, day in and day out, to uphold the law and protect the public, but this defendant disgraced his badge and harmed a person he was sworn to protect," Vance said. "Today's sentence reflects that abusing the authority of a police badge is a serious crime and it will be punished accordingly. I thank the FBI for its hard work investigating and compiling evidence in this case. My office remains committed to aggressive civil rights enforcement."

"This case is representative of the FBI's commitment to enforce and protect civil rights," Schwein said. "While the vast majority of law enforcement officers uphold and obey the law, in those rare instances where serious transgressions occur and the public's trust is violated, citizens should know that the FBI will conduct a complete investigation to preserve and restore that trust," he said.

According to court records in the case, the blows Hooper struck caused Gulley serious injury. Gulley's "slight size in comparison to Hooper and his medical history made him particularly vulnerable to the heavy face blows delivered by Hooper during the attack," the government said in its 2013 sentencing memorandum.

The government also argued that Hooper committed perjury when he testified that he punched Gulley only after Gulley kicked at him from the patrol car. "Had the jury believed Hooper's version was truthful, they could have decided that the level of force used by Hooper was justified, or they could have decided they were not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Hooper was guilty of using excessive force under the circumstances. The jury's guilty verdict reflects they did not believe Hooper's made-up version of the events."

The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Patton Meadows prosecuted.

Updated March 19, 2015