Ex-NOPD cop Rodney Viccknair sentenced to federal prison
After a federal judge overturned a verdict negotiated between the government and the defense, a 55-year-old former New Orleans Police Department officer was sentenced to double prison for sexually assaulting a teenage girl for whom he was once hospitalized a rape set had been brought.
Rodney Viccknair was sentenced to 14 years in prison — twice as long as he and the Biden administration’s Civil Rights Division had requested at the DOJ — several months after he pleaded guilty to violating 18 USC § 242, which allows the use USC criminalizes badges to deprive a victim of constitutional rights.
According to the factual basis for the lawsuit, filed by the government in federal court and agreed to by the defense in November, then police officer Viccknair admittedly met the victim (V1) when she was 14 after being raped. He took the teenager to a hospital for a rape kit and gave her his number — “and offered to be her friend and mentor,” documents say.
Viccknair tried to get closer to the victim by communicating with her by phone and Snapchat for months and, while in uniform, “often stopped by V1 unannounced. ”
“Over time, VICKNAIR made comments of a sexual nature to V1. VIKNAIR requested and received sexually explicit photos from V1 and kept them on his cell phone,” the documents read. “On one occasion he touched V1’s chest under her shirt and on another occasion he touched V1’s buttocks over her clothing.”
After the victim turned 15, Viccknair traveled to her home in Louisiana on Sept. 23, 2020, and “told her to come outside and get in his vehicle,” documents say. Once the victim was in the vehicle, Viccknair locked the doors, would not let her go and “touched her genitals under her clothing”. The government claimed that the offense also constituted “kidnapping”.
According to the court documents, Vicknair lied to detectives at his former police department about why he visited the victim the night of the sexual assault and when he said he did not commit the crime. He only admitted at the time of the interview that he said the kid had a “nice body” and a “nice ass.”
The kidnapping allegation meant Vicknair could face a possible life sentence, leading to a dispute between the defense and prosecutors over how much the offense should be. The government calculated the amount of the offense and concluded that, given the kidnapping charge, the penal guidelines for the Level 43 offense were life imprisonment. However, the government reached an agreement with the defendant to serve a 7-year sentence under Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure.
“The United States understands the importance of correctly calculating penalties and therefore respectfully requests the court to adopt the foregoing calculations,” the government said in a ruling. “Nevertheless, for all the reasons set forth in its Sentencing Memorandum, the United States requests the Court to impose the penalty agreed upon by the parties.”
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, a George W. Bush appointee, did not have the “C” plea and on March 8 dismissed it, the filing showed:
Log entry for the trial before Judge Lance M Africk: sentencing of Rodney Viccknair on 3/8/2023. NOTING that the plea agreement is REFUSED pursuant to Code 11(c)(1)(C) of Criminal Procedure for reasons on record. FURTHER DETERMINED that this matter will continue until 8:30 am on 03/14/2023 to allow the defendant to notify the court of how he wishes to proceed. WAS FURTHER STATED that the terms of the defendant’s release will be modified as set forth herein. (Court Clerk Toni Tusa.) (blg) (Entered: 08.03.2023)
Such so-called “C” pleas are rare, as Law&Crime pointed out in connection with the Derek Chauvin case, and judges are often reluctant to accept them. The reason? If judges accept “C” objections—that is, the verdict negotiated between the parties—their hands are tied when it comes to pronouncing a verdict.
However, the court still had discretion to reject the deal, as the government explained in the plea agreement:
The defendant understands that the maximum statutory penalty for the crime of which he or she pleads guilty is up to life imprisonment. However, the Government and the Defendant have agreed, pursuant to the Code of Criminal Procedure 1 1(c)(1)(C), that if the court accepts the Defendant’s guilty plea to the information, a sentence of 7 years (84 months) imprisonment is appropriate .
The Respondent understands that the Court may accept or reject the agreement under Rule 11(c)(1)(C) or defer its decision to accept or reject until there has been an opportunity to consider the submitted report before judgment for in FRCr.P. 11(cX3)(A). The parties further agree that the Respondent or the Government may declare this Defense Agreement null and void if the Court fails to comply with this Agreement.
The judge actually blew up the deal and set a hearing for the morning of March 14 – today.
The end result of that hearing was a 14-year sentence, according to the Justice Department (as of Tuesday afternoon, the filing had not been updated to reflect that conviction).
Viccknair was fired from the New Orleans Police Department following rape allegations. The victim’s mother filed a lawsuit in February 2021 alleging that Vicknair showed the victim pictures of a girl he claimed was his 16-year-old daughter. The other girl wore bikinis, lingerie and held a sheet over her, the suit said. The ex-officer was also accused of claiming that his daughter was a model.
Viccknair had the victim’s underwear in his possession when he was arrested, the lawsuit continues.
The Justice Department press release made no mention of the rejected “C” motion, although the signature pad of the original agreement shows that Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke supported it.
“We are grateful to this young survivor for coming forward, even though she thought no one would believe her,” Clarke said in a statement, according to the DOJ press release. “Had she not been willing, we could not have held the defendant accountable for his heinous crime. This case should send a strong message to law enforcement officials who sexually abuse victims, particularly children, that they are not above the law and will be held accountable.”
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