United States Attorney Ritz Celebrates Funding Awarded for Legal Services and Improved Court Responses to Domestic and Sexual Violence
Memphis, TN- Kenneth Hicks, 62, has pleaded guilty to civil rights conspiracy violations. Joseph C. Murphy Jr., United States Attorney, announced the guilty plea today.
According to information presented in court, after a four-day jury trial, on April 15, 2022, Kenneth Hicks pled guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of others. Proof submitted to the jury and the court showed that between 2014 and 2018 Anthony Davis, Sam Blue, Ronnie Woods, Lester Page, Kenneth Hicks, David Douglas, and Jarvis Howard conspired to rob drug dealers of drugs and drug proceeds acting under color of law. Sam Blue was a sworn Memphis Police Department officer during this time. Hicks joined the conspiracy in the summer of 2018.
Prior to the planned robberies, various co-conspirators would conduct surveillance of the targets. Blue provided his co-conspirators with equipment, including an official MPD badge, and a car dashboard blue light to use during the planned robberies so that they could falsely claim to be or appear to be law enforcement officers. In the summer of 2018, conspirators targeted individuals believed to be in possession of drugs and drug proceeds. The plan was to pose as law enforcement and detain the targets and seize the drugs and/or money. Blue provided law enforcement sensitive information in furtherance of the conspiracy to rob these individuals and violate their constitutional rights. To further the conspiracy, Blue would contact MPD dispatch and request that a license plate be run. Blue would pass that information along to Davis. Blue also provided advice as to tactics to use to appear that the conspirators were law enforcement.
On July 13, 2018, the final victim was leaving his apartment in Memphis around 4:30 a.m. when a black car with flashing blue lights pulled up behind his car. Hicks and Douglas, dressed in law enforcement type clothing with the word "police" on it and wearing masks and armed with handguns, got out of the car, and ordered the victim to get on the ground.
He obeyed and the men handcuffed him, put a hood over his face, and put him in the back of their car. Hicks and Douglas then drove him to a house on Reese Road.
The victim was taken inside the house and restrained while the defendants beat him, burned him on his arm, neck, and head, and demanded that he tell them where he kept his money and/or drugs. The victim was able to eventually escape by diving head-first out of a window while still handcuffed and with a hood still over his head. A construction worker spotted him in the street and flagged down an officer to get him help. The victim suffered second and third-degree burns on his neck, face, and arms. He was hospitalized for a week in the burn unit at the Med and had to undergo surgery for his injuries including a skin graft to his arm.
"For the last 15 years, the FBI Memphis Field Office’s Tarnished Badge Task Force has been the model for investigating law enforcement corruption around the country," said Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The Tarnished Badge Task Force is composed of law enforcement officers from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Memphis Police Department, and the FBI. The continued commitment to investigating these crimes by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Memphis Police Department has led to the tremendous success of this task force and helped deter criminal behavior and restore public trust in law enforcement. Since its inception, investigating law enforcement corruption has been a top priority for all three agencies and continued focus resulted in this successful prosecution."
"We are thankful for the dedicated work of the Tarnished Badge Task Force that led to the arrest of Kenneth Hicks and other coconspirators. This case is just another reminder that no one is above the law. Additionally, we should never let the unlawful actions of one group of individuals diminish the extraordinary work being done daily by the committed men and women of law enforcement," said Assistant Chief Don Crowe.
"These critical arrests are examples of what we can accomplish when our local and federal law enforcement agencies work together on joint task force operations in order to remove these criminal elements from our streets of Shelby County," said Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. "I am proud of our law enforcement partners, and my deputies assigned to this task force, for their collaborations to investigate and make these arrests."
Sentencing is set for August 25, 2022, before United States District Judge John T. Fowlkes, Jr., where Hicks faces up to life imprisonment. The remaining co-conspirators have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. There is no parole in the federal system.
This case was investigated by the FBI Tarnished Badge Task Force, a national model for investigating law enforcement corruption, comprised of the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and FBI team members.
Assistant United States Attorney David Pritchard prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.