Former Missouri Sheriff’s Deputy Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing a Teenage Girl While She Was Detained

WASHINGTON – Steven W. Burgess, a former Jackson County, Mo., sheriff’s deputy, pleaded guilty in federal court today to violating the civil rights of a teenage girl whom he sexually assaulted in his patrol car, the Justice Department announced.

Burgess, 35, of Independence, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith to the charge contained in an April 7, 2009, federal indictment. As part of his plea, Burgess admitted that while he was a deputy sheriff with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, he deprived a 15-year-old girl of her Constitutional rights by sexually assaulting her while she was in his custody.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government and Burgess agree that a sentence of 14 years in federal prison without parole is appropriate in this case. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Burgess, then on-duty and in uniform as a deputy sheriff, encountered the victim (identified as "C.B.") and some friends in Haynes Park in Sibley, Mo., on July 24, 2007. Burgess told her friends to leave the park and ordered C.B. to stay at the park with him. Burgess then put C.B. in handcuffs and, while patting her down, inappropriately touched her in a sexual manner. Burgess removed the handcuffs and compelled her to perform oral sex on him.

Burgess violated the victim’s right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes the right to bodily integrity. Burgess used force against his victim and placed her in fear of death, serious bodily injury and kidnaping.

"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," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez for the Civil Rights Division said. "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."

"Law enforcement officers have a sworn duty to uphold the law, but in this case a uniformed officer violated both his oath and the law by sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl while she was in his custody," U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Whitworth for the Western District of Missouri said. "We will not tolerate such a heinous offense, especially by an officer abusing his position of authority. A violation of one person’s civil rights is a crime against the entire community. A long prison term will hold him accountable for his repugnant behavior and make it clear that nobody is above the law."

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Michael Warner and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Eric L. Gibson. It was investigated by the Jackson County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.