Former Tallassee Police investigator Brandan Smirnoff, 27, was sentenced to 22 months in prison for assaulting a handcuffed, 24-year-old man, announced U.S Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Jewell. There is no parole in the federal system.
Smirnoff encountered the victim, J.M., after a vehicle pursuit. After officers pursued J.M. for several minutes on a four-wheeler, J.M. stepped off the four-wheeler, laid face down on the ground, and allowed several Tallassee police officers to handcuff him. While J.M. was handcuffed and compliant, Smirnoff lifted him into the air and slammed him to the ground. Smirnoff then lifted the victim into the air and slammed him to the ground a second time. Moments later, before Smirnoff placed the victim into a patrol car, Smirnoff slammed the victim’s head into the side of the vehicle. Throughout the assault, the victim was handcuffed, compliant, and did not pose a threat.
“Mr. Smirnoff not only violated the victim’s constitutional rights by assaulting him repeatedly, he committed a crime that dishonored the whole law enforcement community,” said U.S. Attorney Franklin. “A significant sentence of imprisonment was therefore appropriate in this case, not only to punish Mr. Smirnoff for his actions, but also to deter others from committing acts that lead to distrust between law enforcement and the public.”
“The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers today are honest hardworking individuals,” said Special Agent in Charge Jewell. “However, the FBI will not tolerate the abuse of the public trust in this manner. Law enforcement is held to a higher standard, and in this unfortunate incident, that standard was not met.”
“This defendant abused his power as a police investigator by assaulting a restrained person in his custody. Officers who willfully use excessive force not only violate the Constitution, they erode the public trust in law enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Dreiband. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting victims of these abuses and upholding the Constitution and laws that protect us all.”
On April 19, Smirnoff pleaded guilty to one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 242 by assaulting J.M. while acting under color of law.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Montgomery Division. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Simpson of the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer of the Civil Rights Division.