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Three New Mexico Jail Guards Convicted of Assault, Obstruction of Justice

As previously reported in PLN, prisoner Christopher Shields was beaten by guards at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) on December 21, 2011. [See: PLN, April, 2012 p.50].

Five MDC guards were arrested in connection with the assault or the subsequent attempted cover-up, including three charged in federal court.

Shields, who had been arrested for DUI, was verbally uncooperative during the booking process, which resulted in the beating. He was taken to a shower area where there were no cameras; later, another prisoner had to clean blood from the walls and floor of the shower room.

MDC guard Demetrio Juan Gonzales, 40, who had choked and assaulted Shields, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January 2013 to 33 months in federal prison.

Former guard Matthew Pendley, 26, pleaded guilty on February 20, 2013 to obstruction of justice charges for lying during an investigation into the assault. He was sentenced on July 2, 2013 to five years probation.

A third MDC guard, Kevin James Casaus, 25, went to a jury trial on March 4, 2013 and was convicted of obstruction of justice and falsification of records. He had also lied about the incident, and was accused of hitting and shoving Shields in the shower area. Casaus is scheduled to be sentenced on August 6, 2013. See: United States v. Gonzalez, U.S.D.C. (D. NM), Case No. 1:12-cr-01553-WJ-2.

"When those who are sworn to uphold the law and protect others instead abuse their power and position, they undermine the public's confidence in the justice system and our government institutions," stated U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales.

Additional source: U.S. Dept. of Justice press release (March 7, 2013)

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