First Guilty Verdict Obtained Under 2022 Reauthorization Of The Violence Against Women Act Enhanced Penalties

Saturday, 16 March 2024 21:56

First Guilty Verdict Obtained Under 2022 Reauthorization Of The Violence Against Women Act Enhanced Penalties Featured

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal jury returned a guilty verdict yesterday finding that former Savanna Oklahoma Police Officer (SPD), Jeffrey Scott Smith, 35, sexually assaulted a woman during a traffic stop and obstructed justice by turning off his body-worn camera and dash camera in an effort to avoid recording the assault. This case represents the first sexual assault conviction under the 2022 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that added enhanced penalties for civil rights offenses involving sexual misconduct.

“Today the Department of Justice sends an unequivocal warning: we will hold accountable those who abuse their authority by engaging in sexual assault,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.  “That’s exactly why we advocated so strongly for reauthorization of VAWA two years ago.  This may be the first time we have used the new enhanced penalties for civil rights violations involving sexual assault but it will not be the last. We will work tirelessly to seek Justice for survivors of sexual assault.”

“This case is historic because this is the first defendant to be found guilty and subject to the enhanced penalties in the 2022 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “Sexual assaults perpetrated by police officers are heinous crimes and a disgraceful breach of the public trust in law enforcement.  We acknowledge the victim’s courage in coming forward and immediately reporting this abuse, and for her strength as she testified in trial.  The Justice Department will hold law enforcement officers accountable when they abuse their authority by engaging in sexual misconduct, and we will seek justice for all victims of these crimes.”

“Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect and serve,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Wilson for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. “When an officer uses his position of authority to victimize another, justice demands accountability.”

“It’s impossible to comprehend why the defendant felt entitled to treat an innocent woman this way,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office.  “Instead of ensuring a safe environment for the victim, Smith abused his authority for his own sick gratification. When an officer violates the rights of any citizen, they put the public’s trust in law enforcement at risk.  The FBI will not stand for this egregious behavior.”

Evidence presented at trial established that on Nov. 2, 2022, Smith, working his first solo shift for SPD, conducted a traffic stop of the victim, K.H., and her then-boyfriend, J.G.  After running their licenses, Smith realized that J.G.’s license had recently expired.  He had J.G. and K.H. get out of J.G.’s car to switch who was driving. Smith issued J.G. a speeding ticket, and then began asking personal questions, including how long they had been in their relationship.  At this point, while still speaking to J.G. and K.H., Smith manually deactivated his SPD body worn camera (BWC).

Smith then asked K.H. what she did for work.  K.H. reluctantly admitted that she danced at a gentlemen’s club.  Upon hearing K.H.’s answer, Smith asked to search J.G.’s car.  During the search, Smith looked in K.H.’s purse and found a pre-rolled promotional marijuana cigarette from K.H.’s work.  Rather than arrest her, or issue her a ticket, Smith walked back to his patrol car and manually deactivated his dashboard camera.  Once the defendant had K.H. in his vehicle he sexually assaulted her.

Smith faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison on the civil rights count.  He also faces 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction of justice counts, one count for deactivating his body-worn camera, and one count for deactivating his dashboard camera.  Smith was detained pending sentencing and a sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Oklahoma City FBI Field Office investigated the case with the assistance of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clay Compton and Nicole Paladino for the Eastern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the case.

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