Last month, U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn took the unusual step of charging former Westminster cop Curtis Arganbright with a civil rights violation after he received a mere ninety-day sentence for allegedly raping a woman in 2017. The punishment was the same length as the jolt handed to frequent protester Eric Brandt for writing anti-police messages with sidewalk chalk — an offense for which Arganbright was the arresting officer.
At the time of the filing, Dunn's office declined to confirm that its actions represented an effort to right what many considered to be a serious wrong committed by the Colorado judicial system. But a statement from Dunn accompanying this week's announcement that Arganbright had pleaded guilty to the civil-rights violation makes the motivation abundantly clear.
"As federal prosecutors, our job is to ensure that justice is always served," Dunn noted after the plea, which could result in a maximum penalty for Arganbright of ten years in stir. "When we see an injustice, we will not hesitate to step in, particularly when it involves vulnerable people or those in positions of power."
According to the 17th Judicial District DA's Office, Arganbright gave a ride to a 36-year-old woman after she was released from St. Anthony Hospital in Westminster on August 24, 2017. But as they were driving to Broomfield, Arganbright "pulled off of West 144th Avenue near Zuni Street to a dark area and forced the woman to engage in sex acts."
Afterward, Arganbright's affidavit maintains, he told the woman, "Better not tell anyone about this," before giving her his business card and encouraging her to give him a call in the future.
Four days later, the Broomfield Police Department revealed that Arganbright had been taken into custody on suspicion of three felonies: sexual assault by force, sexual assault by a person in a position of authority, and false imprisonment. But in the end, these charges fell away, and he admitted guilt to a pair of misdemeanors, unlawful sexual contact and official misconduct.
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At Arganbright's sentencing hearing in November 2018, the victim "was physically unable to be present," the DA's office states. "But her mother told the judge that her daughter was brutally raped and suffers extreme PTSD because of Arganbright’s actions."
Nonetheless, Arganbright received a mere three months (to be followed by four years of probation), much to sidewalk-chalker Brandt's astonishment. As he put it to us via email last December, "The officer raped a woman in his patrol car while he was on duty!"
Now, Arganbright could spend up to a decade in prison after his next sentencing, scheduled for March 11, 2020. The appropriateness of this heavier discipline is stressed by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who notes, "The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute law enforcement officers who abuse their authority and sexually assault vulnerable people in their care."
FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips adds: "The FBI takes color of law allegations of misconduct seriously and we will vigorously investigate any public official who willfully deprives those we serve of their constitutionally protected rights."