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January 31, 12

NEWS / South Florida Corrections Officers Sentenced on Federal Civil Rights and Obstruction Charges

MIAMI – Two corrections officers were sentenced to prison today for civil rights and obstruction charges stemming from prisoner abuse that took place at the South Florida Reception Center (SFRC), a state prison in Doral, Fla., the Justice Department announced. Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Sergeant Alexander McQueen, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga to serve one year in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Judge Altonaga also sentenced FDOC Officer Steven Dawkins, 31, to serve one month in prison, followed by six months of supervised release.

On Oct. 17, 2011, following a jury trial, McQueen was found guilty of conspiracy against civil rights and obstruction of justice for his involvement in, and attempts to cover up, prisoner abuse at SFRC. The same jury convicted Dawkins of obstruction of justice. A second jury was unable to reach a verdict with regard to co-defendant Guruba Griffin, 31, and acquitted co-defendant Scott Butler, 32.

According to evidence presented at trial, on Feb. 25, 2009, SFRC corrections officers physically abused inmates by choking, punching and striking them with wooden broom handles. The officers further forced the inmates to fight one another. Additionally, McQueen and Dawkins falsified reports relating to these incidents.

“Conduct by corrections officers who abuse their power and violate the civil rights of those in their custody will not be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal violence and obstruction.”

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting civil rights violators, especially when they seek to hide behind color of law or official position.”

“We are pleased with the sentence for McQueen and Dawkins because their actions affected more than those they physically abused, they undermined the public’s trust in law enforcement,” said Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies of the FBI Miami Division. "Even though they participated in and attempted to cover up prisoner abuse at the Florida Department of Corrections’ South Florida Reception Center, they failed. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to remove those corrections officers who cross the line to engage in criminal misconduct.”

Co-defendant Griffin entered a guilty plea to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law on Dec. 13, 2011, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 22, 2012.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office, Florida Department of Corrections, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Rhee Osborne of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division.




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