McALLEN, Texas - A 26-year-old former local police officer has been ordered to federal prison after sexually assaulting two men while in his custody, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
A federal jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning guilty verdicts March 10 against Matthew Lee Sepulveda, Edinburg, on two violations of civil rights following a two-day trial.
Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Sepulveda to serve a 360-month sentence to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, Judge Crane commented on the shame and embarrassment to law enforcement as a result of Sepulveda’s actions. The court further noted its disappointment in Sepulveda’s lack of empathy for the victims.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers in the United States are deeply committed to fulfilling their oath to serve and protect our community,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI. “Sepulveda betrayed this oath by preying on his victims, exploiting his authority to serve his own personal, depraved interests.”
Sepulveda served as a law enforcement officer with the Progreso Police Department from April 17 to July 2, 2019. The jury heard that while acting under his authority as a uniformed police officer, Sepulveda performed oral sex on two victims while they were in his custody.
At trial, The jury heard from the two men.
The first explained that after he was arrested, Sepulveda took him from the jail cell and escorted him to another office at the police department. Sepulveda then began asking him questions of a sexual nature and performed oral sex on him. The victim testified because Sepulveda was a police officer, he was scared and did not think he could leave.
The evidence showed that Sepulveda’s DNA was found on the victim’s underwear. The jury also heard that Sepulveda logged the victim’s arrest and case after the fact.
The second victim, who was only 17 at the time, was taken to the police department because he was unable to contact his parents subsequent to a traffic stop in which he was a passenger. He described how Sepulveda took him to an office located within the police department where he began asking the victim questions of a sexual nature and also performed oral sex on the victim.
The defense attempted to portray one of the victims as a liar and questioned some of the evidence. The jury was unconvinced and found Sepulveda guilty of two civil rights violations. They also found that on the second count, his conduct resulted in bodily injury and included attempted aggravated sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse and kidnapping.
Sepulveda will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation with the assistance of the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarina S. DiPiazza and Angel Castro prosecuted the case.