A former police officer with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) pleaded guilty yesterday 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 in his capacity as an NOPD 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. The public must be able to trust that law enforcement will execute their sworn duties honestly and faithfully and, if not, that they will face the consequences of their actions. Our office, along with the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to investigate and prosecute any violations of civil rights.”
“The preservation of civil rights and the investigation of Color of Law violations are of utmost priority for the FBI,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams Jr. of the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that individuals like Rodney Vicknair will be held responsible and no one is above the law. We thank our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Department of Justice Civil Rights Division for their strong partnership and dedication to protecting the civil rights of every citizen.”
According to the court documents, in the months and weeks thereafter, Vicknair and the victim spoke on the phone and exchanged messages on Snapchat. Vicknair, while in uniform, often stopped by unannounced at the victim’s residence. Over time, Vicknair made comments to the victim that were sexual in nature.
On the night of Sept. 23, 2020, the defendant arrived at the victim’s house. 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 that 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 that he 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 NOPD 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.