In 2011, Las Cruces Police Department Detective Michael Garcia was working with a unit focused on investigating sex crimes and child abuse. But according to a former department intern, Garcia drove to a secluded area one day and sexually assaulted her after a visit to a crime scene.
On November 19, 2014, a federal court sentenced the 38-year-old Garcia to nine years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Garcia was slapped with the prison term for violating the young victim’s civil rights.
“The defendant abused his authority as a sex crimes detective in the most horrific way, exploiting the victim’s trust in him to commit his egregious acts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
“The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute law enforcement officers who use the power of their position to engage in sexual abuse. The victim showed tremendous bravery when she came forward, and we are thankful for the law enforcement officers in this case, as well as the vast majority of others, who support and help victims of crime.”
According to the DOJ, the Las Cruces sexual assault was investigated by the Las Cruces Resident Agency of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, with the assistance of the Las Cruces Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Holland S. Kastrin for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Our system of justice is clear and unequivocal-every law enforcement officer must follow the laws they are sworn to enforce,” added U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez. “Any time a law enforcement officer breaks the law it undermines the public’s trust in the legal system, and we will do everything we can to ensure that trust is not compromised.”
In addition to the prison sentence, Garcia must give up his law enforcement certification and register as a sex offender.