On August 23, 2017, a woman, deep in the throes of alcohol withdrawal, checked into St. Anthony North Health Campus Hospital in Westminster, Colorado. Staff members saw her stealing medical supplies from the emergency room and notified the police.
Police officer Curtis Lee Arganbright, then 40, responded to the call. The hospital declined to press charges, and the officer said he would bring the woman, 36, back to her home.
He eventually did, but not before driving his vehicle to a secluded area and handcuffing her. He then proceeded to rape her and forced her to perform oral sex on him. Before dropping the victim off at her mother’s home, Arganbright warned her to keep her mouth shut regarding the sexual assault. Oddly, he handed the woman his business card and asked her to give him a call sometime.
Fortunately, the woman did report Arganbright and went to the hospital shortly after the crime for a sexual assault exam. Arganbright turned himself in on August 28, 2017. While he served a short time on state charges for the crime, federal prosecutors filed a civil rights charge against him in October 2019.
The following month, Arganbright pleaded guilty to these federal charges. He is scheduled for sentencing in March 2020 and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Arganbright’s DNA was found on the victim, as well as the side of his police car, according to the results of the investigation. The GPS coordinates on the vehicle confirmed the victim’s account of where Arganbright brought her for the assault.
90 Days on State Charges
At the time of Arganbright’s arrest, he had worked for the Westminster Police Department for nearly four years. Westminster police chief Tim Carlson said at a news conference, “The alleged conduct described in this arrest sickens my soul.”
Although initially charged with sexual assault, in October 2018, Arganbright pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – unlawful sexual contact and official misconduct. He was sentenced to 90 days in county jail, along with a four-year probation after completing his sentence.
Arganbright had already resigned from the police force at the time of sentencing. He was also ordered to undergo treatment as part of the sentencing, and register as a sex offender. Also, Arganbright agreed never to seek employment in law enforcement.
Prosecutors alleged Arganbright choose the woman because she was obviously vulnerable. The former cop had the temerity to blame her for the assault. His victim could not attend the sentencing hearing, with the Adams County District Attorney’s office noting she was “physically incapable” of doing so. Instead, her mother appeared in her place, testifying that her daughter suffered from “extreme” PTSD ever since the rape.
The plea deal and a slap on the wrist sentence angered many in the community and resulted in national outrage. Then, in June 2019, a federal investigation began. The FBI filed a search warrant to obtain the duty belt, handcuffs, and uniform Arganbright had on him the night of the assault.
The Federal Charges
The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not undertake many criminal investigations each year. Therefore, it came as a bit of a surprise that U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn charged the former Westminster police officer with violating the woman’s civil rights by “having non-consensual sex with her while she was in his police custody,” according to a statement released by the Department of Justice on October 21, 2019.
After his guilty plea, Arganbright remains free on bond until his sentencing.
If you or a loved one suffered death or catastrophic injuries at the hands of the police, prison guards or jail staff, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.