MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A former Tallassee Police Department investigator pleaded guilty Friday to assaulting a suspect he was arresting in 2016.
Michael Brandon Smirnoff entered the plea, admitting to assaulting a handcuffed, 24-year-old man, according to United States Middle District Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr.
According to the guilty plea, Smirnoff was on duty as an investigator when he pursued an individual who was on a four-wheeler. The pursuit ended with the suspect stepping off the four-wheeler and lying face down on the grown, complying with officers as they handcuffed him.
The guilty plea goes on to say while the man was handcuffed and complying, Smirnoff lifted him into the air and slammed him to the ground, repeating the assault. Moments later, before placing the victim into the patrol car, the plea says Smirnoff slammed the victim’s head into the side of the vehicle. In all incidents, the guilty plea states the victim was handcuffed, compliant, and did not pose a threat.
“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting victims of these abuses and upholding the Constitution and laws that protect us all,” said Justice Department Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Eric Drieband.
“It is especially important in a climate of distrust between law enforcement and the public, that officers act ethically and within the bounds of the law,” said Franklin. “This police officer’s brutal behavior was unacceptable and criminal. He violated this young man’s constitutional rights and the trust placed in law enforcement officers to faithfully, ethically, and morally enforce the law. You can be sure that anytime an officer steps over the line and into criminal behavior, as this one did, my office will hold that individual accountable.”
Back in October 2018, Smirnoff was indicted on federal charges for civil rights violations and obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He was charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, and one count of obstruction of justice.
Smirnoff faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
His sentencing hearing is set for July 18, 2019.