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Former peace officer pleads guilty to civil rights violation

An ex-sheriff deputy in New Mexico pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and breaching the civil rights of an arrestee. The FBI announced the plea agreement on April 23, 2024, almost a year after the former officer sexually assaulted the female arrestee inside his patrol vehicle.

On April 30 last year, the ex-deputy from Doña Ana County responded to a car accident and arrested the victim for intoxicated and careless driving charges. Once she received medical clearance, the officer handcuffed her hands behind her back and returned her to his patrol car, where he sexually assaulted her.

After bringing the victim to the detention center, he attempted to destroy his vehicle’s video recorder system. The equipment records and stores video footage from the car’s backseat camera. The former officer believed that it recorded his crime and then tried to destroy any potential evidence.

The ex-deputy now faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and must also pay the victim restitution. After his release from prison, he will have to follow state and federal sex offender registration requirements.

The FBI Albuquerque Field Office, the Doña Ana Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police collaborated to investigate the case.

Civil rights laws in New Mexico

The publication of the recent case comes amid the state’s continued effort to protect its citizens’ civil rights. Since 2021, New Mexico has been enforcing the country’s broadest civil rights statute.

Under state law, not only law enforcement organizations are punishable for breaching civil rights. The legislation applies to almost all state and local agencies, allowing individuals to sue public entities for justice.

New Mexico’s Bill of Rights mirrors several rights specified in the United States Constitution, including the following:

  • Guarantees of due process
  • Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of assets
  • Free speech

However, it also includes reforms not guaranteed by the constitution, such as bans on imprisonment for debt or discrimination based on sex.