For more information on any of the civil rights bulletins, go to https://www.justice.gov/crt.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a proclamation commemorating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The Justice Department announced Religious Liberty update to the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM) with a new section titled, “Associate Attorney General’s Approval and Notice Requirements for Issues Implicating Religious Liberty” and directs the designation of Religious Liberty Point of Contact for all U.S. Attorney’s Offices.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division hosted a roundtable on Sexual Harassment in Housing for community organizations. The event included local law enforcement agencies, legal aid offices, fair housing organizations, shelters and transitional housing providers.
Attorney General Sessions statement on the verdict in People of the State of California vs. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate aka Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez.
A former Georgia Jail Sergeant at the DeKalb County Jail was sentenced to one year in prison, three years’ supervised release, and a $100 special assessment for abusing a female inmate by tasing her without any legitimate justification. The defendant’s former supervisor at the jail, was also sentenced to one year of probation conditioned upon his serving 21 days in a halfway house for attempting to obstruct the federal investigation into the defendant’s use of excessive force by making false statements to the FBI.
The Justice Department reached a settlement to resolve a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin by the owners and operators of 360 Midtown, a sports bar and lounge located in Houston, Texas. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Department on Sept. 28, 2016, alleging that 360 Midtown, which previously operated as Gaslamp, engaged in a pattern or practice of illegal conduct by implementing discriminatory practices to discourage or deny admission to African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American patrons.
A former Major at Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) in Angola, Louisiana, was found guilty in federal court for conspiring to cover up the beating of a handcuffed and shackled inmate, and for writing a false report, falsifying official records, and lying under oath about what happened. After four days of trial, a jury convicted the defendant on four charges related to the cover up. The jury heard evidence that the defendant and three other supervisory officers used excessive force against an inmate who was shackled and handcuffed. The other three officers had all previously pleaded guilty to various federal charges related to the beating and the conspiracy to cover it up.
A former Massachusetts police officer was arrested and charged in federal court in Springfield in connection with using unreasonable force during an arrest. The defendant was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of falsification of a document. According to court documents, on April 3, 2017, while acting under the color of law, the defendant deprived a male arrestee of the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.
A former Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper pleaded guilty in federal court to violating an individual’s civil rights by using excessive force. According to documents filed in connection with the plea, on June 25, 2013, the defendant was acting under color of law as a Trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol when he used unreasonable force against an arrestee. The defendant admitted in court that he used force for the purpose of punishment and not for a legitimate law enforcement purpose. As part of the plea agreement, he has agreed to surrender his law enforcement credentials and never again accept any employment related to law enforcement.
The Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in Young America’s Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) v. Janet Napolitano. The plaintiffs, allege that the University of California, Berkeley, enforced a double standard when applied to free speech. BCR alleges that UC Berkeley applied a more rigorous and highly discretionary set of rules to their organization compared to other campus groups, especially with respect to “high-profile” campus speakers.
A Virginia man has been convicted of committing an anti-gay hate crime against a co-worker at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chester in May 2015. Evidence showed that the defendant assaulted his co-worker because of the co-worker’s perceived sexual orientation. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced.
The Justice Department reached a settlement with Omnicare Inc. (Omnicare), a wholly owned subsidiary of CVS Health Corporation and provider of long-term care pharmacy services in Ohio, resolving the Department’s investigation into whether the company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision. Under the settlement agreement, Omnicare will pay the maximum civil penalty for one instance of citizenship status discrimination, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, train its staff and its contractors, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.
Two former Alabama Police Department lieutenants, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in the beating of an arrestee and an attempted cover-up. The five-count indictment charges that on or about Dec. 24, 2014, one defendant physically assaulted an arrestee, while the other willfully failed to intervene to stop the assault. The assault caused the arrestee to suffer bodily injuries.
A former police officer with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Department in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been indicted on federal civil rights and obstruction charges. The indictment charges that on April 18, 2017, the defendant assaulted a patient whom he was in the process of arresting outside of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. As a result of the assault, the patient sustained bodily injury. The indictment also charges the defendant with obstructing justice by writing a false report about the arrest.
The Justice Department filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Montana supporting parents who claim that the state unconstitutionally discriminated against their children when it barred them from a private school scholarship program because they attend a religious school. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.
A Florida man has been sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and three years’ supervised release for threatening to shoot members of a mosque in Miami Gardens, Florida. The defendant admitted leaving a hate-filled and profanity-laden message against Islam, the prophet Mohammed, and the Koran, during which he threatened to go to the mosque, and stated, “I’m gonna shoot all ya’ll.” He further admitted that by leaving this threatening message, he obstructed congregants who worship at the Islamic Center from freely exercising their religious beliefs.
A Milwaukee man was sentenced to 21 years in prison, reduced by three years for time served, after pleading guilty on Oct. 6, 2017, to four counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and one count of conspiracy to commit forced labor and sex trafficking. For over a decade, from 2001 to 2013, the defendant recruited young women and girls to dance at clubs using false promises of money and a better life. He then used a combination of physical violence, isolation, emotional manipulation, sexual assault, and threats to harm the victims’ families to exert control over the victims and compel them to engage in commercial sex acts.
The Justice Department reached an agreement with Denver, Colorado, to improve access to civic life for people with disabilities. The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the Department’s initiative to ensure that cities, towns, and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A Texas man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for assaulting a man because of the victim’s sexual orientation. According to the plea agreement, the defendant, and two other defendants used Grindr, a social media dating platform for gay men, to arrange to meet the victim at the victim’s home. Upon entering the victim’s home, the defendants restrained the victim with tape, physically assaulted the victim, and made derogatory statements to the victim for being gay. The defendants brandished a firearm during the home invasion, and they stole the victim’s property, including his motor vehicle.
A federal court unsealed charges against a fourth defendant for participating in a labor-trafficking scheme that forced minors to work at egg farms in central Ohio. The defendant was apprehended Saturday by Border Patrol while attempting to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. Three other defendants have previously been convicted for participating in the scheme.
A Washington woman pleaded guilty in federal court in Tacoma, Washington, to one count of document servitude in furtherance of forced labor. The defendant’s husband previously pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Both defendants lured family members from Guatemala to the United States, falsely promising that they would give them a home, a job earning a lot of money, and a good life. Contrary to these promises, the defendants imposed significant debt upon them after their arrival. Sentencing is scheduled for March 23, 2018.
Two defendants pleaded guilty to alien harboring scheme involving labor exploitation at a Nebraska Motel. They pleaded guilty in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harboring for financial gain. The defendants “violated immigration laws and exploited a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status.”
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that female tenants in residential rental properties in Wichita, Kansas, were subjected to egregious sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. There were four named defendants. Each owns or previously owned one or more of the properties where the illegal conduct occurred.
The Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado. The settlement resolves a lawsuit the Justice Department filed against the company on Sept. 28, 2017, alleging that the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500.00 to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
The Justice Department filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against Bridges Consulting, Inc. (Bridges), a government contractor based in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. The complaint alleges that Bridges violated the employment rights of a Lieutenant Commander, a reservist in the United States Coast Guard, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). According to the complaint, Bridges violated the Lt. Commander’s USERRA rights under 38 U.S.C. §§ 4311, 4312 & 4313 by failing to promptly reemploy him upon his return from deployment, by terminating his employment, and by retaliating against him because he complained when funds were withdrawn from his Bridges retirement account.
A former Atlanta Police Department Sergeant of Stockbridge, Georgia, was convicted of using unreasonable force when he arrested a Walmart shopper who the officer wrongfully suspected of shoplifting a tomato. King beat the victim with his police-issue baton, breaking two bones in the victim’s leg. The jury also convicted King of writing a false incident report in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing.
A former North Charleston, South Carolina, Police Department (NCPD) Officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his commission of a federal civil rights offense during his fatal shooting of a victim on April 4, 2015. This sentence resulted from the Court’s determinations that the defendant’s actions in the shooting constituted second-degree murder, and his subsequent conduct constituted obstruction of justice as defined by federal sentencing guidelines.
The Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with J.E.T. Holding Co. Inc. (JET), which operates a restaurant in Saipan. It has agreed to pay $40,000 to nine U.S. citizens pursuant to the settlement. The payments, which JET distributed, are part of a Jan. 17, 2017, settlement that resolved claims that JET discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of temporary foreign visa workers, in violation of the INA.
A former police officer with the Savanna Police Department in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty in federal court in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to one count of violating the civil rights of a female whom he sexually assaulted during a routine traffic stop. According to court documents, on Jan. 21, 2017, the defendant, while on-duty, stopped a vehicle during the early hours of the morning while it was still dark outside. After approaching the vehicle, he brought the female driver back to his marked patrol unit and directed her to sit in the front passenger seat where he caused the victim to perform a sexual act on him against her will. He admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong and against the law, yet he did so anyway
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that the City of Springfield, Illinois, has discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, alleges that Springfield’s zoning code treats small group homes for persons with disabilities less favorably than similarly-situated housing for people without disabilities. The department’s complaint further alleges that, even if the zoning code were valid, Springfield violated the FHA by failing to grant an exception that would allow a three-person group home for individuals with disabilities to continue operating in a residential neighborhood.
A former correctional officer of Atlanta, Georgia with the rank of lieutenant at the U. S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, pleaded guilty to abusing an inmate by punching him in his face without any justification. The defendant also admitted that he intentionally obstructed a federal investigation into the matter by writing a false incident report. According to the charging and court documents, the defendant, who worked as a supervisor at the prison, strip-searched an inmate in the lieutenants’ office in front of three other correctional officers. The defendant admitted that after the inmate complained that the strip-search was taking too long, he punched the inmate in his face without justification.
A former correctional officer at the DeKalb County Jail, pleaded guilty to abusing a female inmate by tasing her without any legitimate justification. The defendant’s former supervisor at the DeKalb County Jail, previously pleaded guilty to attempting to obstruct the federal investigation into the defendant’s use of excessive force by making false statements to an FBI agent. The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on February 8, 2018.
A Massachusetts man was charged with two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of interstate transportation for purposes of prostitution in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. According to the indictment, in late 2015 and early 2016, the defendant used force, fraud, and coercion to cause two women to engage in commercial sex acts in Maine before attempting to drive them to Massachusetts against their will. If convicted, the defendant faces a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life, a $250,000 fine, and mandatory restitution.
Two Florida police officers convicted of using excessive force against an arrestee at an August 2014 traffic stop and obstruction of justice during a federal investigation. Evidence presented at both trials established that one defendant had kicked the arrestee and struck him while holding a gun in his hand. At trial, the government presented evidence that the report of the incident had changed significantly within a week, omitting that the defendant had kicked the arrestee. Both defendants face a maximum penalty of up to 35 years imprisonment.
The Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with Washington Potato Company, which operates the Freeze Pack vegetable processing plant located in Pasco, Washington. The agreement resolves the department’s investigation into whether Washington Potato discriminated against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their employment authorization, in violation of the INA. Under the settlement, Washington Potato will pay a civil penalty of $100,000 to the United States, train its staff, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport (HACB), doing business as Park City Communities. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleges that HACB discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act. HACB owns and manages more than 2,600 units of public housing and administers more than 2,800 vouchers under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. The lawsuit arose from a compliance review initiated by HUD.
The Justice Department obtained an additional $5.4 million for servicemembers whose vehicles were unlawfully repossessed by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The bank, which does business under the name Wells Fargo Dealer Services, has agreed to pay this money to approximately 450 servicemembers under a 2016 settlement that resolved the department’s SCRA lawsuit against the company. This additional amount brings the total compensation under the settlement to more than $10.1 million and the total number of servicemembers eligible for relief to more than 860.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleging that Northwest Trustee Services, Inc. (Northwest) violated the SCRA. The complaint alleges that since 2010, Northwest completed foreclosures on at least 28 homes owned by servicemembers without obtaining the required court orders.