American Justice Notebook

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Former Police Officer Guilty of Befriending and Sexually Assaulting 15-Year-Old Crime Victim

Federal officials stated that a former police officer with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old crime victim in violation of her constitutional rights.

According to court documents, in May 2020, Rodney Vicknair, 55, while working as a New Orleans officer, escorted a then14-year-old girl, who was a victim of sexual assault, to the hospital to undergo a forensic exam, also known as a rape kit.

The defendant gave the victim his cell phone number and offered to be her friend and mentor.

At the time, the defendant was 53 years old.

“The defendant’s job was to protect a child who was a victim of sexual assault but instead he exploited her vulnerabilities and abused his position of power to carry out his own sexual assault of the victim,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Law enforcement officials who sexually assault children are not above the law. The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold accountable law enforcement officers who sexually assault their victims when they should have otherwise been keeping them safe.”

“The safeguarding of all of our citizens’ civil rights is an essential part of our Constitution, especially for crime victims,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Any violation of these rights, especially when committed by a law enforcement officer sworn to protect the rights of our citizens, is particularly disturbing.

According to the court documents, in the months and weeks after that, Vicknair and the victim spoke on the phone and exchanged messages on Snapchat.

Vicknair, while in uniform, often stopped unannounced at the victim’s residence. Over time, Vicknair made comments to the victim that were sexual.

The defendant arrived at the victim’s house on the night of Sept. 23, 2020

. By that time, she had turned 15 years old. He told her to come outside and get into his vehicle. She got into the passenger’s seat while the defendant remained in the driver’s seat.

Then, the defendant locked the doors so the victim could not leave.

He leaned over toward the victim, and she feared for her physical safety. The defendant then sexually assaulted the victim when he intentionally touched her genitals under her clothing without her consent.

The defendant admitted in court that he acted without a legitimate law enforcement purpose and knew his actions were wrong and against the law but that he engaged in such conduct anyway.

A sentencing hearing has been set for March 8, 2023.

The FBI New Orleans Field Office and the New Orleans Police’s Public Integrity Bureau investigated the case.

Criminal Chief Tracey Knight for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.