The Justice Department announced today that Justin Watson, 32, a former deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Huntsville, Alabama, was sentenced today to three years in prison for lying under oath with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.
According to his plea agreement, Watson, while off-duty, got into a bar fight with a handyman. Watson searched for the man over the next several weeks, and when he observed the man driving down the highway, Watson pulled him over and ordered him out of his truck. Watson proceeded to strike the man in the face, hit him with a baton and choke him until he was unconscious. At a criminal proceeding arising out of those charges, Watson knowingly and falsely claimed, under oath, that he had never seen the man before the traffic stop and that he had not gotten into a bar fight with the man.
“Watson lied under oath to obstruct an investigation into his violent assault of a motorist,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When officers deliberately try to impede federal investigations, their actions violate the law.”
“Although the vast majority of police officers perform their duties with integrity, Justin Watson did not, using his badge to interfere with an investigation into police misconduct,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “Communities must be able to expect fair treatment from law enforcement. Watson violated the community’s trust and will now go to prison as a result.”
This case was investigated by the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Stuart Burrell of the Northern District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Christopher J. Perras of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.