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Former Long Beach, Calif., Police Officer Sentenced for Civil Rights Violations

May 10, 2008  | 

Former Long Beach police officer Joseph Ferguson was sentenced this week in federal court in Los Angeles, Calif., for his role in a series of home invasion robberies over a two-year period, the Justice Department announced today. Ferguson was sentenced to 97 months in prison and four years of supervised release.

On Jan. 30, 2008, a Los Angeles jury convicted the defendant of conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess narcotics with intent to distribute, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. The defendant's brother and co-defendant, former Los Angeles police officer William Ferguson, was also convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law and several firearms offenses and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, 2008.

The evidence at trial showed that the defendant and his co-defendants were members of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, led by former Los Angeles police officer Ruben Palomares and including other law enforcement officers and drug dealers. Together, they committed more than 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Los Angeles area between early 1999 and June of 2001. The robberies generally were committed after the group received information that a particular location was involved in illegal drug-trafficking. The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying a badge, who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were restrained, threatened or assaulted during the search. These assaults included firing a stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons and putting a gun in the mouth of a victim. When the group stole drugs, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs and they would split the profits among the group.

In all, 17 defendants, including law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and the California Department of Corrections have been convicted of federal crimes in connection with the conspiracy.

"This former police officer violated his oath as a public servant when he, along with his co-defendants, began engaging in violent criminal conduct," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute those who cross that line."

This case was investigated by Special Agent Phil Carson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of Steve Sambar, Roger Mora and Mark Bigel of the Los Angeles and Long Beach Police Departments. This case was prosecuted by Department of Justice Special Litigation Counsel Jeffrey S. Blumberg, Department of Justice Trial Attorney Josh Mahan, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas M. Miller.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as the laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights law enforcement prosecutions. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Criminal Section convicted the highest number of defendants in its history, surpassing the record previously set in Fiscal Year 2006. During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants (391 v. 256) in law enforcement prosecutions than the previous seven years.

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