Two Former San Juan Municipal Police Officers Sentenced for Using Excessive Force Resulting in Death

WASHINGTON – Two former San Juan, Puerto Rico, Municipal Police Officers, Elias Perocier Morales and Eliezer Rivera Gonzalez, were sentenced yesterday in federal court for using excessive force that resulted in the death of Jose Antonio Rivera Robles, the Justice Department announced.

Perocier Morales received a sentence of 10 years in prison. Rivera Gonzalez received a sentence of six and a half years in prison.

Both Perocier Morales and Rivera Gonzalez pleaded guilty in June 2009. In the plea proceedings and court documents, Perocier Morales admitted that on July 20, 2003, in the course of arresting Rivera Robles, he punched his prisoner repeatedly in the face while Rivera Robles was handcuffed and incapable of defending himself. He also admitted to later kicking Rivera Robles hard when he appeared unconscious. Rivera Gonzalez admitted to kicking Rivera Robles extremely hard when he was lying face down toward the ground, in no way posing a threat to anyone. Both men admitted that their actions, together with the actions of their fellow officers, resulted in Rivera Robles’s death.

On Aug. 13, 2009, three other officers were convicted, following trial, of civil rights violations arising out of the fatal assault, and one other officer was convicted of obstruction-related offenses. Vidal Maldonado, Juan Morales Rosado, Carlos Pagan Ferrer and Jose Pacheco Cruz will be sentenced on their convictions at a later date.

"Every person has the right to expect that they will be safe when in the custody of law enforcement officers. Today’s sentence reflects the damage done to the public trust when law enforcement officers engage in such egregious misconduct," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said. "The Civil Rights Division will continue to aggressively prosecute officers who abuse their power in this manner."

Special Agent Louis Rivera of the FBI’s San Juan Office investigated this matter. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Antonio Bazan, Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.