WASHINGTON--Demetrio Juan Gonzales, 40, a former corrections officer at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was sentenced today in federal court to 33 months in prison for choking a jail inmate in the shower room, according to federal authorities.
According to federal court documents, during the early morning hours of December 21, 2011, Gonzales was assigned to the Receiving-Discharge-Transfer (RDT) Unit at MDC where individuals are brought to be booked soon after they are arrested.
Gonzales' job was to photograph and fingerprint those who are brought to RDT for booking. The victim, who had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, was verbally uncooperative during the booking process but was not a physical threat to anyone, federal authorities stated.
Nonetheless, Gonzales became angry at the victim and walked him to the shower room/dress-out area where he knew there were no surveillance cameras. Several other corrections officers followed Gonzales to the shower room/dress-out area, federal officials claim.
There, Gonzales physically assaulted the victim, striking him multiple times and choking him. As a result of Gonzales' actions, the victim started bleeding. Gonzales acknowledged that the victim did nothing to justify the beating and, as a corrections officer, he was not permitted to assault inmates just because they angered him, officials stated.
"Corrections officers who abuse their authority by physically assaulting prisoners undermine the foundations of the rule of law and violate basic constitutional guarantees that protect every person in America," stated Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in a press release. "The Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division will continue to aggressively prosecute civil rights violations that occur in our jails and prisons."
Fellow former MDC corrections officers Kevin Casaus, 24, and Matthew Pendley, 26, were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2012 and are awaiting trial on charges related to this assault.