August 10, 2004 – Legal news, law news, law firm news & research on LAWFUELAn asylum officer with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service was convicted today on federal corruption and civil rights charges for soliciting sex from a woman and cash from another immigrant, both of whom were seeking asylum in the United States.
Thomas A. Powell Jr., 60, of Pomona, was convicted after a weeklong trial in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
Powell was convicted of victimizing two Chinese women in 2000. In the first case, Powell touched a female immigrant through her clothes and then demanded sexual favors in exchange for recommending approval of her asylum application. She rejected his sexual advances, and her application for asylum was subsequently denied.
In the second incident, Powell solicited and received a $2,000 bribe from another female immigrant who was seeking political asylum. In exchange for the bribe, Powell recommended approval of the asylum application.
“Government officials who abuse their authority to prey on the desperation of others compound their crimes by dishonoring our country and the countless men and women who serve it with dignity, courage and compassion every day,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This conviction sends a clear message that we will not tolerate misuse of power by those who hold a public trust.”
“The Civil Rights Section in my office is committed to protecting the rights of all residents,” said United States Attorney Debra W. Yang. “We are also committing to aggressively prosecuting those who violate this nation’s civil rights laws, particularly those who abuse their positions of authority.
Powell was found guilty of deprivation of civil rights under color of law and two counts of bribery by a public official. After the guilty verdicts were read, Powell was remanded into custody by United States District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew.
Powell is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lew on 22. At sentencing, Powell faces a maximum penalty of 31 years in federal prison.
The case against Powell was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General.