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Former Police Officer Sentenced to Prison for Civil Rights Violations

U.S. Attorney’s Office October 22, 2009
  • Southern District of West Virginia (304) 345-2200

CHARLESTON, WV—A former City of Montgomery, West Virginia, police officer was sentenced today in federal court to two years in prison and two years supervised release for using excessive force during an encounter with a citizen.

Matthew A. Leavitt, 31, of South Charleston, West Virginia, previously entered a guilty plea in July 2009, to a two-count information charging him with deprivation of rights under color of law. Leavitt admitted that on September 26, 2008, while acting as a uniformed police officer for the City of Montgomery, he intentionally struck an African American man with a slap jack, an unauthorized piece of law enforcement equipment. Leavitt further admitted that on the same day, he unlawfully and without probable cause detained and arrested the victim’s wife on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Leavitt acknowledged that he abused his authority as a law enforcement officer and agreed that his conduct violated the federal law and the constitutional rights of the victims.

At sentencing, Chief United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin found that more than 20 complaints had been filed against Leavitt alleging illegal searches and arrests. The complaints were made by African-American males or white females who were dating African-American males. The Judge also found that Leavitt had maintained a database containing photographs of young, African-American males on the police department’s computer.

Chief Judge Goodwin commented that this case was “disturbing” and that Leavitt's behavior “shocked my conscience.” Goodwin further stated that Leavitt “terrorized” the victims’ family, “disgraced his uniform,” and “harmed the community” by diminishing the community’s trust in the police.

United States Attorney Charles T. Miller, who handled the prosecution, stated, “Police officers are sworn to serve and protect the public. This sentence should serve as a reminder and a message to those rogue officers who abuse their power and violate the public trust. The United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are committed to protecting the civil rights of the citizens in our district. I commend the FBI who worked tirelessly to secure a conviction in this case.”

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