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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 18, 2016

Former Madison County Deputy Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Lying Under Oath to Obstruct Investigation into Beating

HUNTSVILLE – A federal judge today sentenced former Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Watson to three years in prison for lying under oath with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

 

U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced Watson, 32, on the charge, which he pleaded guilty to in January.

 

According to his plea agreement, Watson, while off-duty, got into a bar fight with a handyman. Watson searched for the man over the next several weeks, and when he observed the man driving down the highway, Watson pulled him over and ordered him out of his truck. Watson proceeded to strike the man in the face, hit him with a baton and choke him until he was unconscious. At a criminal proceeding arising out of those charges, Watson knowingly and falsely claimed, under oath, that he had never seen the man before the traffic stop and that he had not gotten into a bar fight with the man.

 

“Watson lied under oath to obstruct an investigation into his allegedly flagrant abuse of power and violent assault,” Gupta said. “When officers deliberately try to impede rather than cooperate with federal investigations, their actions violate the law.”

 

“Although the vast majority of police officers perform their duties with integrity, Justin Watson did not, using his badge to interfere with an investigation into police misconduct,” Vance said. “Communities must be able to expect fair treatment from law enforcement. Watson violated the community’s trust and will now go to prison as a result.”

 

This case was investigated by the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Stuart Burrell and Trial Attorney Christopher J. Perras of the Criminal Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

 

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Updated November 18, 2016