LOS ANGELES – A judge sentenced a former officer with the Bell Police Department late yesterday to nine years in federal prison for sexually assaulting a female motorist and violating her civil rights, the Justice Department announced.

Feliciano Sanchez, 35 of Pico Rivera, received the sentence for the civil rights offense from U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank.

During today’s hearing, Judge Fairbank said “the offense was serious, involving predatory conduct, [and was] committed by a police officer acting under color of law.”

Sanchez pleaded guilty last year to violating the female victim’s civil rights when he forced her to perform oral sex after stopping her for a traffic violation. Sanchez admitted in court that on May 16, 2007, he took the victim in his patrol car to an isolated parking lot away from the traffic stop. During the assault, Sanchez placed his hand on his duty weapon and forced the victim to perform the sex act.

According to evidence presented in court and in documents filed by prosecutors, Sanchez forced the victim to commit the sex act while armed and in his full police uniform. After the incident, Sanchez twice went to the victim’s workplace to tell her that he would be watching her, which caused her to quit her job.

“This former police officer violated his oath to serve and protect the community by committing a crime that was particularly offensive, dehumanizing and harmful,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “In this case, Mr. Sanchez committed an egregious assault, caused incalculable pain and suffering to the victim, and damaged the honor of the thousands of men and women in law enforcement who serve us every day.”

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, stated: “These actions not only brutalized the victim, but undermined the public’s trust in its law enforcement officers. The Department will aggressively prosecute law enforcement officers who violate the rights of the people they have sworn to protect and disregard the laws they have pledged to uphold.”

This case was investigated by agents from the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Release No. 10-185

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