Trooper pleads guilty in civil rights violation

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 24, 2005

An area Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper pleaded guiltyThursday to a misdemeanor civil rights violation during an August2003 traffic stop, said Ralph S. Boelter, acting special agent incharge of the Mississippi FBI field office.

John Kevin Smith, 33, of Brookhaven, was charged with the use ofunreasonable force on a 17-year old victim following an Aug. 22,2003, traffic stop in Lincoln County. The trooper also admitted heintentionally attempted to obstruct justice during theinvestigation of the incident.

In the incident, Smith ordered the victim to get on the ground, andalthough the victim was not resisting, forced the victim’s face tostrike the pavement. The incident was caught on videotape by thecamera mounted in the trooper’s patrol car.

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When the victim’s parents complained about the inciden and therequested the videotape, Smith claimed the videotape did not exist.Smith has admitted that the statement was untrue and that it wasmade in an attempt to impede the investigation into hisunreasonable use of force, said Boelter.

“It is an unfortunate circumstance when a law enforcement officeris guilty of violating the civil rights of a person he is sworn toprotect,” Boelter said.

Sentencing for Smith is scheduled for Sept. 12 before United StatesDistrict Court Judge David Bramlette. He faces a maximumimprisonment of one year and fines of up to $100,000, plus interestand penalties.

As part of a plea agreement, Smith will resign from the MississippiHighway Safety Patrol prior to his sentencing. The case wasprosecuted by special prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division ofthe Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.