Jury convicts former officer for violating civil rights
McALLEN, Texas - A former local police officer has been convicted of sexually assaulting two men while in his custody, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
The federal jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning guilty verdicts against Matthew Lee Sepulveda on two violations of civil rights following a two-day trial.
Sepulveda, 25, Edinburg, was a former law enforcement officer with the Progreso Police Department. He served from April 17 to July 2, 2019. The jury heard that while acting under his authority as a uniformed police officer, Sepulveda violated performed oral sex on the victims while they were in his custody.
The jury heard from the two victims.
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 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.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane presided over trial and set sentencing for May 20. At that time, Sepulveda faces up to life in federal prison.
Previously released on bond, he was taken into custody following the verdict today where he will remain pending that hearing.
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.