Ex-Police Officer Admits Lying to FBI in Civil Rights Case
In a rare case of an officer facing a civil rights conviction, a former Louisiana police officer pled guilty Friday in court in Shreveport, Louisiana to violating the civil rights of a woman and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Willie Fred Knowles, 66, of the Homer, Louisiana Police Department admitted that he got into a verbal argument with a woman identified as K.M. on Oct. 29, 2012. Knowles was on duty, but K.M. was not under arrest at the time. Knowles then admitted to pushing the woman down and striking her face and body without cause.
When questioned about the confrontation a few months later, Knowles lied to the FBI, saying the woman jumped on his back and he never hit her.
“Without any legitimate reason or cause, this officer chose to use violent force against the victim and then lie to try to cover up his crime,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Whenever law enforcements officers break the law they take an oath to uphold, they violate the public trust and threaten the reputation of their colleagues who wear the badge and perform their jobs with honor and distinction.”
Knowles was suspended by the police department and was terminated prior to facing these charges.
Knowles was also charged with using his Taser against two people in 2012, “without justification.”
The prospect of Knowles facing a conviction in a civil rights case is rare. In a study, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found that between 1995 and 2005, federal prosecutors abstained from bringing charges against 96 percent of cases involving law enforcement officers violating civil rights. By comparison, prosecutors turned down only 23 percent of all other types of criminal cases.
Elton Richey, a defense attorney in Shreveport who has defended both police officers who were terminated and civilians who claim the police violated their civil rights, said relying on police to monitor themselves is problematic.
“I can’t think of any case that I’ve and where the internal affairs investigation found the officer at fault,” he said, referencing the internal body which investigates civil rights cases. “The officer will get what civilians don’t get, and that’s the benefit of the doubt.”
Knowles will be sentenced on November 9th and faces a maximum sentence of six years for the combined charges.
Posted in The Takedown