Monday, April 30, 2018

Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Officer Charged with Civil Rights Offenses for Role in Inmate’s Beating and Death

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida, and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, today announced federal charges against juvenile detention officer Antwan Lenard Johnson arising from his role in the August 2015 beating and death of a 17-year-old juvenile inmate (E.R.) at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Miami, Florida.

“The Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute corrections officers who exploit their position of power and violate the civil rights of individuals in their custody,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.

“The United States Constitution protects every person in this country, including those who are detained in juvenile detention facilities,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg. “It is an honor and privilege to work with the many outstanding agents and officers who are part of our law enforcement community. These brave individuals put their lives on the line every day to protect us all and make our communities safer. But we are committed to bringing to justice the small minority of law enforcement officials when they abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of another.”

“Violations of civil rights by government officials cannot be tolerated as it undermines the public’s trust,” said Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami.  “The FBI is committed to working with our partners to safeguard the civil rights of all.”

Johnson, 35, of Miami-Dade County, was charged with conspiracy to violate E.R.’s civil rights under color of law, which resulted in E.R.’s death, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 241; and deprivation of E.R.’s civil rights, under color of law, which resulted in bodily injury and E.R.’s death, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242. If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison for each charge.

E.R. was a 17-year-old juvenile who had been arrested and was subsequently taken to the JDC on Aug. 28, 2015.  He was being detained pending further order of the State Court and had not been convicted of the crime for which he had been arrested.

The indictment alleges that Johnson operated a commonly utilized bounty system in order to help ensure obedience and officer respect at the JDC.  Johnson encouraged and induced juvenile detainees, in exchange for rewards and privileges, to forcibly assault E.R.  In exchange for attacking E.R., Johnson rewarded the juveniles with extra recreational time and snacks. As a result of being held at the JDC, witnessing events at the facility, and in some cases being actual victims of the bounties, the juveniles were aware of the bounty culture.  They knew that they would not be punished or disciplined by Johnson, but in fact rewarded, if they followed his directives.

The indictment alleges that, on Aug. 30, 2015, Johnson worked in Module 9 at the JDC, during the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift.  Based on E.R.’s statements and behavior during dinner at the JDC cafeteria, Johnson communicated to juveniles that he wanted them to forcibly assault E.R.  Various juveniles agreed, which caused E.R. to fear for his immediate safety and stand away from the other juveniles prior to, and while returning, from the JDC cafeteria to Module 9.

According to the indictment, Johnson directed juveniles to delay the attack on E.R. until they all returned to Module 9.  Upon returning to Module 9 with the juveniles, Johnson promptly walked out of view of E.R. and the other juveniles.  At the same time, a juvenile punched E.R. in the face as he attempted to sit down in a chair. Numerous other juveniles immediately joined the attack and punched and kicked E.R., continuing their assault, even when E.R. fell to the ground.

The indictment further alleges that after E.R. was escorted out of Module 9 to the JDC medical department, Johnson promptly released the juveniles in Module 9 from their cells and allowed them to watch television as a reward and privilege.  Johnson also bumped fists with the juvenile who initiated the attack on E.R.  Johnson later caused certain Module 9 juveniles to receive snacks as a reward and privilege for participating in the attack on E.R.

According to the indictment, E.R. was later transported from the JDC to Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida.  On Aug. 31, 2015, E.R. was pronounced dead due to bodily injuries suffered during the attack.

An indictment merely contains allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI Miami Area Corruption Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean T. McLaughlin and Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of the Civil Rights Division.

Blue Springs, Sugar Creek Men Sentenced to 15 Years for Luring Robbery Victims with Online Ads Independence Man Sentenced to Five Years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three men have been sentenced in federal court this week for their roles in a conspiracy to commit a series of armed robberies by luring their victims with online advertisements and ambushing them.

Rodney E. Brock, 21, of Blue Springs, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Greg Kays today to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Sage Harrison, 36, of Independence, Mo., was sentenced on Thursday, April 26, 2018, to five years in federal prison without parole. Kenneth W. Sexson, 34, of Sugar Creek, Mo., was sentenced on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, to 15 years in federal prison without parole.

Brock, Harrison and Sexson each pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit armed robberies from April 1, 2015, to June 7, 2016. Brock also pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robberies committed in October 2015 and one count of carjacking. Harrison also pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robberies committed in October 2015. Sexson also pleaded guilty to six counts of armed robberies committed in October 2015, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Co-conspirators posted ads on several websites in order to entice customers to meet in person at area hotels, residences and apartments in Kansas City, Mo. When the customers arrived, co-conspirators were lying in wait, armed with firearms and weapons that appeared to be firearms. They ambushed and robbed the customers at gunpoint.

According to court records, the proceeds of the robberies was divided up and usually used to pay for narcotics or to pay for a room where the co-conspirators could use narcotics. When confronting the victim, the co-conspirators used verbal threats, pointed real and fake guns at them, physically hit them, and intimidated them by photographing or taking identifications off of the victim. Records obtained from social media services and hotels corroborate statements by participants that only a small percentage of the victims called the police to report their robbery.

Brock and Sexson admitted that they participated in the most violent of the robberies, which occurred on Oct. 9, 2015. Co-defendant Melissa C. Cummins, 23, of Independence, Mo., posted an online ad then directed the customer who responded to an address to meet her in person. When she let him into the apartment, Brock, Sexson and other conspirators were waiting armed with firearms to rob him at gunpoint. Brock forced the victim into his own vehicle and searched it for more items to steal. Brock threatened to shoot the victim if he didn’t produce the title to the vehicle. Brock forced the victim to ride in the passenger seat while a co-conspirator drove his vehicle. Brock again threatened to shoot him if he didn’t produce the title. While driving at highway speeds on 71 Highway, the victim jumped from the moving vehicle in fear for his life and sustained injuries.

The next day, Independence police officers arrested co-defendant Devon Davis-Aumua, 23, of Independence, prowling cars in the parking lot of the Quality Inn at approximately 3:33 a.m. Davis-Aumua was in possession of methamphetamine, a stolen Springfield XDS .45-caliber pistol, and the keys to the victim’s stolen truck, which was discovered nearby out of gas.

Sexson was arrested on June 7, 2016, when the U-Haul cargo van he was driving was mistakenly identified by a woman who had loaned a similar van to an acquaintance without it being returned. She attempted to get the van to stop by pulling in front of it, then followed the van and ended up striking the van multiple times with her vehicle. She told police officers that co-defendant Ray J. Mahurin, 34, of Blue Springs, who was in the back of the van, fired multiple shots at her vehicle with a handgun.

Independence police officers located the U-Haul cargo van near Highway 291 and Truman Road. They initiated a pursuit in which the U-Haul cargo van reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour. During the pursuit, Sexson’s van ran a red light and drove in opposing lanes of traffic. During the pursuit, officers saw Sexson and Mahurin throw two long guns from the vehicle. They later recovered a loaded Marlin 30-30 lever action rifle and a camouflaged Mossberg pump action shotgun in the area of the chase. Both firearms had been reported as stolen. Officers recovered a Springfield Armory XDS-9 handgun.

The pursuit continued toward Leavenworth County, Kan. Tire deflation devices were deployed against the U-Haul van multiple times. The pursuit ended only after the U-Haul van became disabled as a result of the damage suffered during the pursuit. Sexson, Mahurin and co-defendant Nicole Covey, 35, of Sugar Creek, were arrested. During a search of the U-Haul van, officers discovered a ballistic vest, a Covert CXI crossbow, four pairs of black gloves, bandanas, assorted hand and cordless tools, a collapsible baton and multiple chainsaws.

Officers also located photos from Mahurin’s Facebook account, which shows Mahurin and Sexson inside the van on the day before the police chase, and from inside the van during the police chase.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Sexson has eight prior felony convictions. Sexson was convicted in 2004 of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. Sexson also has several prior state convictions, including three counts of assault, possession of a controlled substance and leaving the scene of an accident.

Brock, Harrison and Sexson are the first defendants to be sentenced in the robbery conspiracy. Mahurin, who pleaded guilty to being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm, was not charged in the robbery conspiracy. Mahurin was sentenced on April 10, 2018, to three years and one month in federal prison without parole.

Cummins, Davis-Aumua and Covey are among five co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing, also including Daphne J. Fruean, 37, of Independence, and Michele R. Shatto, 34, of Kansas City, Mo.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the FBI, and the Independence, Mo., Police Department, with assistance from the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the North Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Blue Springs, Mo., Police Department.

Navajo Man from Shiprock Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Murder Charge

Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native America Women

ALBUQUERQUE – Jerry Johnson, Jr., 56, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Shiprock, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a second-degree murder charge.  Johnson entered the guilty plea under a plea agreement that recommends that he be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 129 to 161 months followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

Johnson was arrested in July 2017, by the FBI on a criminal complaint alleging that he murdered a Navajo woman on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M.  According to the complaint, on June 26, 2017, Johnson struck the victim in the head with his fist, and then retrieved a knife and stabbed her in the back.  Johnson later was indicted on a murder charge on Dec. 20, 2017.

During today’s proceedings, Johnson pled guilty to the indictment charging him with second-degree murder.  In entering the guilty plea, Johnson admitted that on June 26, 2017, he killed the victim by hitting her, and when she was laying down, stabbing her once in the back with a kitchen knife.  Johnson remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI and the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer M. Rozzoni is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native American women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department's on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.