Ex-Warren police officer accused of beating prisoner indicted

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published November 17, 2023

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WARREN — A former Warren police officer accused of depriving a prisoner of his constitutional rights by using excessive force inside the jail and filing a false report has been named in a federal indictment.

Matthew Rodriguez, 48, was arraigned on Nov. 6 following an indictment earlier this month by a grand jury convened in the United States District Court for Eastern District of Michigan.

Rodriguez was charged previously in federal court with violating a prisoner’s civil rights under the color of law.  He now faces two counts in the indictment: deprivation of rights under color of law, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, and falsification of records, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years.

According to the complaint, while Rodriguez was working as a Warren police officer, he allegedly deprived a prisoner of “the right to be free from unreasonable seizures,” which includes the right to be free from the unreasonable use of force by a law enforcement officer. According to the court, Rodriguez, without legal justification, repeatedly punched and struck the 19-year-old prisoner in the head and face, resulting in bodily injury.

In count two, according to the complaint, Rodriguez knowingly falsified a record and document with the intent to impede, obstruct and influence the investigation while working with the FBI.

“Specifically, Matthew Rodriguez wrote a narrative report as part of a Warren Police Department ‘Blue Team’ use-of-force report regarding his use of force against (the prisoner) that he knew to be false, in that it represented that Matthew Rodriguez has (had) struck (the prisoner) only one time in the head, when in fact, as Matthew Rodriguez then knew, he had struck (the prisoner) multiple times, and had thrust (the prisoner’s) head and face into a solid wall and into a solid floor,” according to the complaint.

Rodriguez was working in the booking room of the Warren Police Department during the early morning hours of June 13 when he was processing the prisoner, who was arrested earlier.  According to police surveillance video, Rodriguez appeared to have struck the prisoner in the face, pushed him into a wall, slammed his head against the floor and pulled him by his hair to lift him off the floor, before throwing him into a jail cell. The prisoner can be seen in the video with his hands to his side, apparently speaking to Rodriguez, who appears to be shown turning away from him before turning back and striking him.

“The protection of individuals’ Constitutional rights, even the accused, is one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice and my office. The conduct that is alleged here, a blatant and shocking violation of the victim’s rights, and then an effort by the former officer to lie about that, cannot be ignored or go unchecked,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement.

“Mr. Rodriguez violated his oath to serve, and his alleged conduct was a betrayal of the trust placed upon him by the citizens of Warren, his fellow officers, and all police officers who perform their duties with honor and professionalism every day,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. “We remain grateful for collaborating with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office and the Warren Police Department. The FBI is dedicated to protecting the civil rights of all people, including those in police custody, and ensuring the people of Michigan can have confidence in the integrity of law enforcement.”

The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Jonathan J.C. Grey.

A not guilty plea was entered on Rodriguez’s behalf.

Rodriguez is currently out of custody on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Efforts were made to contact Rodriguez’s attorneys of record, Elias Muawad and Steven Fishman. Neither were available for comment at press time.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for March 13, 2024.