WASHINGTON — Steven “Craig” Shelton, 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 6, in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas to violating the civil rights of an arrested person by using excessive force against him.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston for the Eastern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno of the FBI’s Dallas Field Division made the announcement.
During the plea hearing, Shelton admitted that on or about September 21, 2021, while serving as the chief deputy and second in command of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, he struck several times an arrested person handcuffed and docile in the face. . Shelton further admitted that his actions, which occurred in front of several other officers in the Rolling Oaks area of Wills Point, caused bodily harm to the arrestee. Shelton admitted to hitting the arrested person out of frustration, even though he knew there was no legitimate need for law enforcement to use force.
“Those in leadership positions in sheriff’s offices violate public trust when they abuse their official authority and position to commit assaults against people held in their custody,” Clarke said. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable law enforcement officers, at all levels, who abuse their authority by using excessive force to deprive people of their constitutional rights.”
“It is the undisputed duty of a law enforcement officer to protect and to serve,” Featherston said. “Public trust in law enforcement is eroded when officers fail to uphold the laws they are sworn to uphold, and my office will continue to hold accountable those who believe they are above the law.”
“Agents who use excessive force break the trust of their communities and their oath to protect and serve,” said Deputy Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division. “Violating the civil rights of an arrested person is a clear abuse of authority and will not be tolerated by the FBI. We are committed to upholding everyone’s constitutional rights and expect law enforcement to do same.
With his guilty plea and in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement, the defendant faces a sentence of 44 months in prison.
A sentencing date will be set after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the US Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the FBI Field Division in Dallas. He is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Batson for the Eastern District of Texas and prosecutors Kathryn E. Gilbert and Matthew Tannenbaum of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.