Former Puerto Rico Police Officer Sentenced for Making False Statements to FBI During Civil Rights Investigation
WASHINGTON—Former Puerto Rico Police Officer Miguel Negron Vazquez was sentenced today to serve 12 months and one day in prison for making a false statement to a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during a federal investigation into civil rights violations related to the fatal beating of Jose Luis Irizarry Perez, 19, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
Negron Vazquez pleaded guilty to falsely telling the FBI that two officers, who later pleaded guilty to unnecessarily striking Irizarry Perez with their batons, never approached or interacted with the victim during the incident. In total, six Puerto Rico police officers have pleaded guilty for their roles in the beating and subsequent obstruction of the civil rights investigation, and two of those officers are still awaiting sentencing. According to documents filed in connection with the guilty pleas, two former Puerto Rico police officers violated the constitutional rights of Irizarry Perez by striking him with their police batons while another former police officer physically restrained Irizarry Perez during an election evening celebration at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan M. Perez Gimenez issued the sentence, which will be followed by two years of supervised release. During the two-year term, the defendant will be under federal supervision, and risks additional prison time should he violate any terms of his supervised release.
“Lying to the FBI or concealing information during the course of a federal civil rights investigation undermines the public’s trust in the criminal justice system and will not be tolerated,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The department will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who seek to cover up or obstruct a federal investigation.”
“Today’s sentence affirms that law enforcement officers are not above the very laws they are sworn to uphold,” said U.S. Attorney Rodriguez-Vélez. “The defendant’s conduct undermined law enforcement’s expectation of honesty from public officials and those who desire to serve.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division and is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorneys Shan Patel and Olimpia E. Michel of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras of the District of Puerto Rico.