Violating More Than Her Civil Rights

November 16, 2009

Perhaps it’s because I’m a criminal defense lawyer, but this story out of Missouri is about as upsetting as it gets.  Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy Steven w. Burgess has pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a 15 year old girl by sexually molesting her. The facts are horrifying: This criminal, acting under the authority of a badge, handcuffed a teenager and forced her to perform oral sex on him. Her crime? Hanging out in a park with her friends. He will be sent to federal prison for fourteen years without the possibility of parole.

What makes this story scarier is that prior to the feds stepping in, Jackson County Court Judge John O’Connor had also sentenced him to fourteen years for Sodomy and a host of other state charges. Then he decided to suspended Burgess’s sentence and placed him on probation!  There was plenty of local outrage, but it seems that this is the sort of story that warranted national attention, rather than the drivel that passes for national news these days.

The message is clear: Those in power don’t have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. By now this is a cliche, but that’s only because it’s so pervasive. In New York, there have recently been a number of instances of police officers accused of drunk driving, with sometimes tragic consequences. The fact that arrests are even made might be an improvement. There has always been the perception that cops had a license to drink and drive.  If times are changing, that’s a good thing.

I certainly don’t mean this as an attack on all police officers, but they, more than most, are in the position of violating or protecting the U.S. Constitution on a daily basis. After Burgess’s plea,  Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez for the Civil Rights Division said “A law enforcement officer who abuses his authority by sexually assaulting a child not only violates the law, but also the child’s civil rights and the public trust. The Civil Rights Division will aggressively prosecute any person who, while purporting to act as a law enforcement officer, violates the most basic Constitutional rights of our citizens.”

{ 1 comment }

carolyn rose goyda November 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm

i am in missouri and also am facing serious police misconduct and do not know where to turn

where can a citizen go to get urgent help – my home and my safety are geninuely at risk

thank you

cell 314 691 7883


{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: