Former U.S. Probation Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights and Sex Abuse Charges

WASHINGTON– Mark John Walker, 52, of Eugene, Ore., pleaded guilty today to charges related to his engaging in sexual contact or aggravated sexual abuse with female offenders who were under his direct supervision as a federal probation officer from 2006 to 2009. Sentencing is scheduled for July 18, 2011 before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline, who is a visiting judge from Alaska.

As a U.S. Probation Officer, Walker supervised offenders who were serving probation or supervised release terms imposed by a federal judge, including offenders with vulnerable backgrounds involving sexual abuse, mental illness and drug addiction. Walker had the power to recommend that offenders who violated their conditions of probation or supervised release be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned. Under the U.S. Constitution and federal law, law enforcement officials cannot use their authority to willfully sexually assault individuals under their control.

While exercising his authority as a probation officer, Walker willfully violated the victims’ civil rights by kissing them, touching their breasts, buttocks and inner thighs, and forcing one victim to have sexual intercourse with him when he visited her home as part of his official duties. At the time, he was wearing his badge and carrying his government-issued firearm, and the victim was not able to escape. The victims feared reporting the violations to authorities because they were afraid that no one would believe them and that Walker, as their probation officer, had the power to have them incarcerated or otherwise punished.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the parties have agreed to recommend that Walker be sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. The defendant will also have to register as a sex offender under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, and keep the registration current in any state in which he resides, is employed or is a student. Chief Judge Beistline has the authority to accept or reject the joint sentencing recommendation.

“ Law enforcement officials violate the public trust when they abuse the rights of individuals under their supervision,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who abuse their power in this way.

“ Federal Probation Officers are entrusted and empowered by law to serve others,” said U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. “Our criminal justice system is enhanced every day by their dedicated and loyal service. Walker betrayed his fellow officers and abused his power by sexually abusing the vulnerable people he had sworn to help. These victims have been heard.”

“We have a very high standard when it comes to the actions of federal officers,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “This defendant’s criminal actions did great harm to women who were already very vulnerable. That is intolerable.”

The case has been investigated by the FBI in Eugene, Ore. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pamala Holsinger, Hannah Horsley and Craig Gabriel are prosecuting the case with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section.