O.C. jury will be asked to weigh in on videotape that shows 2001 jail house beating.
The probation violation landed Torres in jail on Feb. 28, 2001 – when deputies used force to control the 18-year-old as he was being booked, causing permanent brain damage.
The incident was recorded on a jail videotape, which Torres’ lawyers say does not support the deputies’ contention that Torres instigated the attack. The grainy recording – taken from a camera mounted several feet away – shows deputies wrestling Torres to the ground.
The videotape will be the center of a federal civil-rights trial that after numerous delays starts today before U.S. District Court Judge Alicemarie Stotler. Torres, of Santa Ana, is suing the county, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and three deputies, alleging he suffered permanent brain damage at the hands of jailers.
The trial, which has been delayed for several years, comes in the midst of harsh criticism of the Sheriff’s Department’s handling of its jails because of the October 2006 death of inmate John Chamberlain, who was slain by other prisoners. The county this month paid $600,000 to end a wrongful-death lawsuit in the case, and county supervisors also have approved a review panel to keep watch over the jails. Prosecutors are also conducting a special grand jury probe into Chamberlain’s death – including an accusation that one deputy encouraged the melee.
Norman Watkins, an attorney who is defending the county and the Sheriff’s Department, declined to comment for this article.
Torres’ team of attorneys, including R. Samuel Paz and Sonia Mercado, also cast blame on former Sheriff Mike Carona, who was subpoenaed to testify to talk about the department’s use of force policy.
Carona “allowed the jail to operate without adequate leadership and supervision … and because of the lack of said accountability measures, numerous deputies regularly engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the law,” according to Torres’ March 2002 complaint.
Torres, now 25, is unable to hold a steady job and cannot drive, Paz said. He has a short-term memory and needs medical care because of brain injuries caused by the beating, he added.
Torres wants the county to pay for his medical care, and his lawyers will present evidence on cost estimates during the trial.
He was born in Durango, Mexico, and came to the United States when he was 8, according to psychologist Roger Light in a November 2003 evaluation.
While growing up in Orange County, Torres was arrested two or three times, including for not going to school and failing a drug test involving marijuana, according to Light’s report.
That February day, Torres was home when he was picked up and carted to jail.
When asked about the incident with jail deputies, Torres said that he remembered getting hit, but then felt he had “passed out,” Light wrote.
After he was taken to the hospital, emergency room records indicate that Torres “got beat up in jail” and was “hit on the face.”
Light, a psychologist hired by the county, cast doubt on Torres’ actual mental impairment.
“Mr. Torres apparently was putting forth a naïve attempt to appear more impaired than he actually is,” Light said.
Others, though, say Torres’ injury was caused by the incident with deputies. Dr. Darwood B. Hance, a radiologist and witness for Torres, examined the teen’s imaging records and wrote that Torres’ frontal lobe damage stemmed from the beating.
One of the deputies being sued is Mark Kent, who worked for an armored-car company before becoming a sworn officer in 1999.
In pretrial testimony in the case, the deputy said he did a pat-down search of Torres and didn’t find anything. He removed Torres’ handcuffs, and ordered him to sit on a bench and remove his shoes and socks.
Torres then “flipped a sock at me,” Kent said. Torres then took off his jacket and “hit me with it,” Kent added. The deputy said he grabbed Torres’ right arm when the teen wouldn’t stand up as ordered. Torres pulled away.
Deputy Adam Moore came over and grabbed Torres’ left arm.
Torres jumped up, grabbing Moore around the waist, according to Kent’s police report of the incident. Moore broke free and wrestled Torres to the ground, according to the report.
“When someone is fighting you, there is no real procedure,” Kent explained in his deposition. “The procedure is to basically get control of him.”
“He wouldn’t stop fighting. He wouldn’t do anything … as far as what we wanted him to do,” Kent also said. “And he just kept screaming and yelling … just like football players running onto the field, getting pumped or something.”
Several deputies arrived at the scene, and handcuffed Torres.
A bloodied Torres was taken to a cell. An hour later, he was taken by ambulance to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.
Kent said he did not hit Torres. He said he thought Torres was taken to the hospital because nurses thought the inmate was drunk. But he also admitted Torres was not believed to be drunk when initially checking into the jail. A blood alcohol test showed Torres was not under the influence at the time, Paz said.
Based on Kent’s story, prosecutors initially charged Torres with assault on police officers. But they decided to drop the charges in September 2001 after viewing the tape.
“We viewed video … and it is hard to determine whether (Torres) was throwing socks and jacket at Deputy Kent,” according to an unnamed prosecutor’s August 2001 note. “We probably shouldn’t proceed as there is little benefit in doing so and slim chance of succeeding at trial.”
Kent is no stranger to such excessive force lawsuits. He was one of four deputies sued in March 2000 by inmate John Lolli, a diabetic who was pepper sprayed and had his ribs broken after asking jailers for a snack. Lolli’s former attorney, Rob Bastian, said Kent was present during the October 1999 altercation, but it was not clear if Kent ever struck the inmate. Lolli lost the case last year.
Since the incident, Torres has resided with his mother. Both declined to be interviewed for this story.
Recent Orange County juries have not looked favorably on inmates who sue over alleged jail beatings. Besides Lolli, former inmate Howard Faulkner lost his lawsuit in June 2007. He claimed a deputy beat him in January 2000 while returning to his cell after dinner. He was in custody for drunk driving.
“I would think in most cases, Orange County juries wouldn’t side with a criminal,” said Faulkner, 40, of Santa Ana. “They think they are upholding the law by siding with law enforcement.”
County pays $600,000 in jail killing
Father of John Derek Chamberlain, who was beaten by fellow prisoners while deputies watched television nearby, will get settlement.
The settlement is far lower than the $60 million sought by George Chamberlain, whose son, John, was beaten and tortured for at least 20 minutes Oct. 5, 2006, while a senior deputy at Theo Lacy jail watched a baseball game in a nearby guard receptacle.
Attorney Jerry Steering, representing the 81-year-old father in Arizona, said he accepted the county’s offer out of concern that a jury would react negatively toward John Derek Chamberlain, who had not been accused of molestation, but had been found with child pornography.
“They may not be so thrilled about giving away millions of dollars (for) someone they feel could be a child molester,” Steering said. “The reason the case settled for that amount is because of the inevitable prejudice that at least some if not most of the jurors would feel about John Chamberlain.”
County officials said they could not comment until they receive the signed settlement agreement from George Chamberlain. The county offer was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Steering said.
Seven inmates have been charged with Chamberlain’s death – one of whom has accused deputies Kevin Taylor and Jason Chapluk of instigating the attack by passing inaccurate information that Chamberlain was a molester. For his part, Taylor told investigators that he was watching television and did not notice the melee inside Barracks F West at Theo Lacy jail.
An Orange County Register investigation into the killing led to the formation of a special grand jury, which is looking, among other things, into the actions of the deputies. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors responded Tuesday by creating an office of independent review to oversee complaints at the Orange County jail, one of the largest in the nation.
In the aftermath of the Chamberlain killing, complaints of excessive force by deputies in the jail system and videotapes showing inmates being shocked with Tasers have publicly emerged.
Before his death, John Chamberlain had pleaded for days to be moved out of his jail ward because of threats from other inmates. His attorney called the jail only hours before the attack, asking that Chamberlain’s concerns be investigated.
After the killing, Deputy Taylor had the jail log updated to reflect that he offered to move Chamberlain, but the inmate declined, according to investigation records.
Sometime after 6:30 p.m., Chamberlain was led by inmates to a partially hidden cubicle, where he was attacked by a mob. They doused him with scalding water, hit him with their shoes, kicked him in the head and battered him with their fists. Reports show that Chamberlain curled into a ball on the floor, begging the inmates to, “stop, please, stop.”
One inmate punched Chamberlain so hard that he broke his hand. Another held onto a bunk bed for leverage and stomped on Chamberlain’s skull.
They called him a “baby raper,” and pulled off his clothes, debating whether to rape Chamberlain himself.
The melee ended when inmates, noticing that Chamberlain was unconscious, flagged down deputies inside the enclosed guard station. By that time, many of the attackers had time to wash the blood off themselves.
“It just got out of hand,” one inmate told sheriff’s investigators.
Videos show use of force at O.C. Jail
Deputies are seen striking and using a Taser on a handcuffed prisoner. They say he was resisting a search.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies repeatedly shocked a handcuffed prisoner with a Taser, even after he had been strapped into a restraint chair, slammed him onto the floor with a “knee drop” and appeared to hit him in the head while he sat passively on a bench, jail videotapes show.
The grainy but graphic images from 2006 show Matthew Fleuret, 24, being put into a holding cell at Orange County Jail and held on the floor by at least five deputies, one of whom pulls Fleuret’s arms back and sharply up toward his head while others repeatedly shock him with the Taser over a period of about 13 minutes. Fleuret’s lawyer says he was hit 11 times with the stun gun during the incident.
In internal sheriff’s reports obtained by The Times, deputies said they had to use force because Fleuret was intoxicated and uncooperative, and had resisted their efforts to further search him. The deputies can be heard telling him to stop resisting.
Experts on the use of force interviewed by The Times suggest the deputies violated widely accepted standards. “It does not look pretty,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminology professor who has studied the issue for about 25 years.
Some of the Fleuret tapes are from stationary cameras that have no sound. A deputy shot another tape with a hand-held camera. In many instances, the cameras show only one angle.
Basing conclusions on tapes shot from a single angle can be “tricky,” said Alpert, but he added that the deputies had “no apparent reason” to shock Fleuret with the Taser.
The Virginia-based International Assn. of Chiefs of Police has a model policy for Tasers that prohibits their use on handcuffed prisoners “absent overtly assaultive behavior that cannot be reasonably dealt with in any other less intrusive fashion.”
Fleuret, a construction worker and handyman, was not prosecuted. He has no criminal record, his lawyers say. He was arrested in March 2006 on suspicion of obstructing a deputy after getting into a bar fight on St. Patrick’s Day.
The tapes came to light as part of a civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive use of force that Fleuret filed in July against the county, seeking $47.5 million in damages.
The county has denied the allegations in the suit. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said he could not comment before reviewing the suit with county lawyers. He said information on the department’s Taser policies was not available late Tuesday afternoon.
A digital copy of the recordings was given to The Times by Fleuret’s lawyers, Stephen Bernard and David Brown, who alleged that the case reflected a long pattern of brutality in Orange County lockups. “The officers tortured him,” Bernard said.
Fleuret, who now lives in Utah, declined to be interviewed. His mother, Carol Falk of Bakersfield, said he has lasting physical and psychological injuries and is unable to return to full-time construction work.
“He hasn’t been right since,” said Falk, an emergency room nurse. “The kid’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
Alpert and other experts noted that tapes in alleged brutality cases have proved to be open to interpretation.
In several high-profile trials in recent years, juries that watched such tapes have acquitted law enforcement officers.
But the experts, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the tapes indicate that the deputies in this case departed from standard practices.
David Klinger, a University of Missouri, St. Louis, criminology professor who focuses on use-of-force tactics, said that repeatedly shocking a restrained prisoner with a Taser “would not be appropriate” unless the prisoner posed an imminent threat.
Taunts alone are not enough to justify the use of force, he said.
Klinger, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, did not view the Fleuret tapes.
Based on a description of them, however, he questioned why the deputies did not simply lock Fleuret in the cell.
“That’s what I’d do — put him in the cell, let him cool off,” he said. “But I wasn’t there. I don’t know what the circumstances were.”
Several experts also said the apparent blow to Fleuret’s head and the knee drop to his neck seemed unwarranted.
“I don’t think anyone is going to say this type of force is reasonable, unless there is something we’re not seeing on the tapes,” Alpert said.
The action seen on the tapes unfolds as follows:
Initially, Fleuret, shirtless and handcuffed behind his back, is standing at the “triage” counter, where a jail nurse examines him. After Fleuret is directed to sit on a bench, a deputy walks up behind him and appears to hit him in the head, although the tape is jumpy at that point.
A deputy’s report says Fleuret “was trying to intimidate the other arrestee who was sitting on the bench next to him by staring at him.”
It does not say that Fleuret was hit.
Shortly afterward, the tapes show two deputies standing Fleuret against a wall and then escorting him down a short corridor, where he tenses up and begins to struggle. Half a dozen deputies swarm him. The tape from the hand-held camera, which has sound, picks up as the deputies take off Fleuret’s belt and walk him into a cell.
Still handcuffed, he crouches and shouts “No!,” with an expletive, when a deputy orders him to stand.
The deputies straighten him up, and the view inside the cell becomes obscured as they step in front of the camera.
A deputy commands, “Tase him!” and “Tase him again!” Fleuret screams in apparent pain and can be seen lunging through the cell door, landing on the floor outside, a deputy falling beside him. Deputies pile on top of Fleuret, pinning him, and the Taser is fired again.
“We need a nurse over here,” a deputy says.
Fleuret is dragged back into the cell, as the deputies tell him to stop resisting. While Fleuret is on his stomach, a heavy-set deputy drops on him knee-first, slamming Fleuret’s neck and head onto the floor.
A report filed by one of the deputies says, “In order to better control Fleuret, I placed my knee onto Fleuret’s upper back.”
Blood appears to be flowing from Fleuret’s scalp. The Taser is fired again, and he howls.
“Take his pants off,” one deputy says. The pants are cut off with scissors so they could be inspected for “contraband,” according to a deputy’s report.
Fleuret says over and over that he can’t breathe. Brown said the deputies broke a small bone in Fleuret’s throat.
The deputies are heard warning him that “it’s going to get worse” if he does not cooperate. One deputy pulls Fleuret’s manacled arms forward until his elbows are nearly above his head, his shoulders knotted. Fleuret’s lawyers and mother say this caused rotator cuff injuries.
On the tape, a sergeant appears to ask that the deputy ease the pressure on Fleuret’s arms. But the deputy balks, saying, “He’s got a lot of strength pushing this way.”
Fleuret is dragged across the floor, his head draped in a mask that prevents him from spitting at the deputies.
The deputies hoist him into the restraint chair, securing straps across his chest. His legs are in irons, and his wrists remained cuffed.
“Two deputies for each arm,” someone says, as the deputies begin to remove Fleuret’s handcuffs to re-cuff him to the chair.
A deputy then presses the Taser into Fleuret’s abdomen and fires it, and there are more screams. In his report, this deputy says that he had to use the Taser because Fleuret “began to swing his arm violently, breaking free of deputies’ hold.” The arm is obscured on the tape.
“What’d I do?” Fleuret asks in a general way.
A voice instructs one deputy to write the “main report” on the incident, and the others to contribute a “paragraph or two.” Someone says, “We can watch the tape.”
Fleuret is shaking his legs and saying he can’t breathe. “I got sucker-punched,” he says.
The deputies wheel Fleuret into a cell, where he would spend more than three hours.
A sergeant says to him, “Can I ask why you were fighting so hard?”
Through the fuzzy audio, Fleuret appears to say: “What would you do?”
Orange county corrections officer arrested in theft
An Orange County corrections officer found himself on the other side of the bars after a late Monday arrest.
Clifford Gonzales, 28, was named in a felony theft charge.
Acting on a tip Monday, detectives caught a man trying to take possession of stolen four-wheelers, according to a sheriff’s office press release. The man had believed the four-wheelers were stolen, deputies said.
Gonzales hired on with the department in June 2006.
His bond was set at $20,000 by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Rodney Price and he was out of jail Tuesday.
Prison Guard Arrested For Alleged Sex With Inmate
MILPITAS — The Santa Clara County Department of Correction announced Friday that a 41-year-old department employee has been arrested and charged with having sex with a female inmate at the Elmwood Correctional Complex in Milpitas.
Mario Palomo, a 19-year department employee, was arrested on Tuesday. He is currently free on $50,000 bail and is on paid administrative leave from the department pending the results of an internal investigation. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the criminal investigation.
The inmate Palomo allegedly had consensual sex with was released on Tuesday after having been in custody since May 2007, according to sheriff’s Office spokesman Don Morrissey.
“As far as we know it was a one time thing,” Morrissey said about the sexual contact between Palomo and the inmate.
County reaches tentative settlement in jail excessive-force case
Sacramento County has tentatively agreed to pay $180,000 to settle a jail brutality lawsuit brought 3 1/2 years ago by Jafar Afshar, who was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public and wound up getting his head split open while in the booking area of the jail. The county board of supervisors must approve the settlement before it can become final.
Afshar, a 40-year-old native of Iran and a naturalized U.S. citizen, alleged that use of excessive force was routine by jail deputies after he suffered a massive cut on his head and a concussion while being booked. Then-sheriff Lou Blanas vehemently denied that there was such an unwritten policy and asserted that there was a written policy governing the use of force at the jail.
Afshar was arrested by Sacramento police officers early June 7, 2003. He was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, and a pot pipe and less than an ounce of marijuana were found on him, according to court documents.
The suit was one of a trio of high-profile federal cases alleging civil rights violations and abuse at the Main Jail. One of those was settled by jury in November, and one case is still pending.
Inmate says deputies pepper-sprayed him
The three officers are on paid leave during an investigation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has suspended three deputies and opened a criminal investigation into allegations that they assaulted a jail inmate and pepper-sprayed his genital area.
The investigation started after Alejandro Franco, 23, alleged that jailers, upset because he swore at one of them, took him to an isolated place and assaulted him in November.
In an interview with The Times this weekend, Franco said two deputies pinned him to the ground at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles and a third pepper-sprayed his anus and scrotum.
Oleoresin capsicum spray, commonly known as “pepper spray,” is used by many law enforcement agencies — including the Sheriff’s Department — to control dangerous and violent suspects. It causes inflammation, pain and discomfort so severe that most subjects lose the ability to resist, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Franco said he was handcuffed at the time and did not resist.
“If they had just punched me and yanked my shirt, this wouldn’t have been an issue,” Franco said by telephone from the jail. “They took it an extra step. It was humiliating, degrading, embarrassing. . . . They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
A sheriff’s official said the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau has taken Franco’s allegations “very seriously” and is reviewing them. The three jailers have been placed on paid leave during the investigation, but department officials would not identify them or make them available to comment.
“There is a criminal investigation. It’s moving along,” said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, which monitors Sheriff’s Department internal affairs investigations under a contract with the county. “If the allegations are true, the consequences are serious. There is no legitimate reason for doing what is alleged here.”
Franco said he swore at a deputy who had refused to give him a clean shirt. At the time, Franco was in jail for allegedly violating terms of his probation for a domestic violence conviction.
About 45 minutes after the argument, three deputies removed him from his cell, handcuffed him and took him to a recreation area away from other inmates, Franco said.
One deputy jabbed him in the face, the inmate alleged. Another yanked his T-shirt and asked, “How’s this shirt?” Franco said.
Then the deputies ordered him to lie face-down on the pavement. Two held him there, pressing their knees into his back and neck. Then, he said, “my boxer shorts were pulled down and I was pepper-sprayed . . . . “
Franco said he heard a hissing sound and then began to feel severe discomfort.
“My testicles and area down there was burning really bad,” he said.
A deputy then warned him not to act up again, Franco said.
“He said, ‘You so much as stick your nose out the tray slot [on the cell door] I’ll beat you up so bad you’ll have to go to [the hospital],’ ” Franco said.
The deputy said he needed to teach him a lesson for swearing at him, Franco said.
“He said I made him look [bad] in front of everybody, so now everybody is going to think they can get away with that,” Franco said.
Franco admitted that he had used foul language but said he did not assault or resist the deputies.
“It’s not worth it for me to do that,” he said. “I’m out in a month and a half. I have no intention of prolonging my stay here.”
Franco said he was examined by a doctor in the days after the assault and diagnosed with a bruised back, an injury he believes was caused by the deputies’ restraining him.
Steve Whitmore, a sheriff’s spokesman, declined Monday to discuss details of the case.
“Of course we take it seriously,” he said. “At the conclusion of the investigation, the appropriate action, if any, will be taken and anything that can be released to the public will be released to the public.”
Franco said sheriff’s investigators have interviewed him twice about the allegations. They seized his clothing, which he said was stained by the spray, and recently swabbed his mouth to get a DNA sample, he said.
Franco said deputies often use physical force to maintain control within the jail.
“It’s standard routine. This is their house. You either get with the program or the program will get with you,” he said. “If they punched me a couple of times and said, ‘Don’t do it again,’ I could have lived with that.”
Blaine Jackson is shown as he leaves the Sacramento County Main Jail on Nov. 19, 2006, in a photo provided by his attorney, Stewart Katz. Katz has filed a lawsuit over injuries Jackson says he sustained in the jail after he was arrested at a raucous college party. Formal charges were not filed against the Sacramento State athlete.
Lawsuit filed se of jail restraint chair
The specter of a restraint chair’s use as a means of torture at the Sacramento County Main Jail has been revived by a new federal civil rights lawsuit.
Nearly nine years ago, nine people who claimed they were tortured by sheriff’s deputies at the jail when they were strapped into the “Pro-Straint chair” settled their suits against the county for the collective sum of $755,000.
Their attorney, Stewart Katz, said at the time that the suits forced the Sheriff’s Department to change its policy on how the chair could be used.
Jackson, a starting defensive end on Sacramento State’s football team the last two seasons, suffered “severe physical injuries, including bruises, abrasions, nerve damage in the wrist area, and a facial laceration that required emergency medical care and ongoing treatment,” according to the suit.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages, including punitive damages. Named as defendants are the county, Sheriff John McGinness and Deputy Matthew Athey, who arrested Jackson on suspicion of being drunk in public.
No charges were ever brought against Jackson, who has no criminal record.
Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Jones, who took over as jail commander two months after the Jackson incident, said that the jail has strict policies about the use of the chair and that evidence he has reviewed shows no sign of wrongdoing by deputies.
Instead, he said, one portion of jail video shows Jackson “obviously intoxicated” and resisting deputies, sparking a scuffle.
The events of Nov. 18, 2006, a Saturday night, began with a stereotypical college scene: a raucous party attended largely by Sacramento State athletes in a residential area near the campus. Deputies responded to a noise complaint early Sunday.
Deputy Athey twice warned Jackson to leave or he was going to jail, according to the suit. Jackson, who was on his cellular phone, told Athey he was arranging a ride home, “and that he would absolutely be leaving because he did not want to go to jail,” the suit relates.
The deputy told Jackson to get off the phone, and yelled, “You are going to jail,” it says.
Jackson panicked and ran, but after a short distance he stopped as Athey and another deputy pulled up in their patrol car.
“They approached the stationary Jackson, forced him to the ground, twisted his arms, ripped the cell phone from his hands and continued to twist Jackson’s arms even as Jackson screamed out in pain that he was not resisting,” the suit claims.
The deputies pepper-sprayed Jackson in the eyes and mouth, and when he tried to spit out the burning substance the deputies put a spit mask over his head and handcuffed and arrested him, the suit says.
Jackson was escorted by “five or six deputies” to a cell, the suit says. His handcuffs were removed and he was searched and was “cooperative, complying with the deputies’ requests.”
But, the suit says, Jackson was thrown to the floor and the deputies jumped on him. “One officer smashed Jackson’s face into the floor with his knee while another continued to beat Jackson’s face with his fists while also using a baton to hold Jackson’s head in place,” the suit alleges. “Jackson felt blood pouring from his face and curled up in a fetal position to protect himself.
“Jackson heard another officer comment on the blood flowing from his head wound and then the beating stopped.” It was then, the suit says, that the deputies put him in the chair.
The chair has a metal frame and a hard plastic seat. Straps across the chest immobilize arms and constrict breathing. Shackles and manacles are used to restrain hands and feet.
“In addition, a hood is frequently placed over a victim’s head, creating the subjective apprehension of imminent suffocation akin to water boarding,” the suit states. The hood is called a “spit mask,” and protects deputies from saliva if the prisoner starts spitting.
The spit mask placed on Jackson during his arrest was removed while he was searched and then put back on before he was placed in the chair, according to Katz.
“While Jackson was restrained … several officers taunted him,” the suit says. One deputy said he was glad he beat Jackson because he was a University of California, Davis, graduate, “making apparent reference to the football rivalry between the schools.”
Jackson claims he immediately felt pain in his wrists and numbness in his hands and “pleaded with officers to loosen his handcuffs … but deputies ignored the requests” while laughing and taunting him. Jackson’s requests for medical attention for the facial wound were ignored or denied, according to the suit
After “several hours” in the chair, Jackson asked to use a bathroom but was told he could not and, finally, he “was forced to urinate all over himself.”
“There are very few legitimate uses for a contraption like this …,” Katz said in an interview. “But the Sheriff’s Department persists in using it for torture. It’s sort of depressing that they don’t seem to ever learn.”
After about 16 hours in custody, Jackson was released.
He sought emergency medical care for the head laceration and numbness in his wrists, and was diagnosed with possible radial nerve injury, the suit alleges. It claims the laceration required eight stitches and the emergency room physician noted “an increased risk of infection due to the length of time the wound had remained open.”
Jackson was treated at the David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield because he is a military dependent, the son of a U.S. Marine Corps brigadier general.
Jones, the jail commander, said he had reviewed video of the first phase of Jackson’s booking and the “initial altercation.”
Jackson was cooperative during the first part of the process, Jones said, but he was “obviously intoxicated.”
As deputies escorted him down a hall – probably toward a “sobering cell” – “there was some sort of verbal exchange,” Jones said. “There’s no way to tell what it was because there’s no sound on these videos.”
At that point, Jones said, a deputy tried to place Jackson in a wrist lock and he resisted. Another deputy tried unsuccessfully to get his other arm, “so they took him down and he was still fighting.”
A nurse checked him to ensure he was not seriously hurt, Jones said.
If there is video of events that may have led up to Jackson being placed in the chair, he has not yet seen it, Jones said.
Date Posted: 06:20:22 12/01/07 Sat
$1 million settlement in three jail suicides
Sheriff calls the pending accord a ‘business decision’ to avoid costs of trials and appeals.
By Denny Walsh – email@example.com
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, November 29, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B2
A $1 million settlement expected to be finalized this week over three inmate suicides – two in 2002 and one in 2003 – recalls the dark past of the Sacramento County Main Jail.
While the inmates died by their own hand in a facility acknowledged as a tough place to do time, family members blamed the deaths on flawed policies and inadequate training and supervision of sheriff’s deputies who staff the jail.
“Nothing about the county’s decision to settle these cases should be construed as evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the Sheriff’s Department or its staff,” Sheriff John McGinness said in an interview. “It was strictly a business decision meant to avoid the potentially enormous costs of trials and appeals.”
McGinness said the jail’s staff “has done a phenomenal job of turning things around there,” dropping the suicide rate well below the national average and going 19 months without an inmate suicide.
There were seven suicides at the jail in 2002, six by hanging and one by drug overdose.
In response to the rising suicide rate, the department made structural changes in the cells, provided material to inmates less readily used for suicides, and provided training to staff regarding suicide risks.
Attorney Stewart Katz, who represents the families of the deceased on whose behalf the federal lawsuit was filed, sounded a note somewhat similar to McGinness’.
“To the extent that these suits are or were instruments of change, that goal has, in essence, been accomplished,” Katz said.
But, Katz said, the circumstances of the suicides “logically lead to the conclusion the parties would be foolish not to resolve this case.”
The jail was plagued by allegations that the department condoned sheriff’s deputies’ routine use of excessive force, and that inmates consistently suffered from lax and indifferent medical care.
Under McGinness, who took over as sheriff in mid-2006, and his jail commander, Capt. Scott Jones, the problems have been aggressively addressed and, by most accounts, conditions at the jail have improved.
But the first seven years of the new millennium yielded a bumper crop of civil rights lawsuits.
The Katz suit now being resolved involves the suicides of Jake Summers on Feb. 8, 2002; Mohammad Reza Abdollahi on March 27, 2002; and Jose Eliazar Arambula on July 24, 2003.
The total current value of the settlement is $1 million but, because of annuities purchased for Arambula’s two sons that will yield cash benefits through 2021, the overall value exceeds $1,060,000.
In addition to the two annuities, which are currently each valued at $100,000, Arambula’s parents received $50,000.
Abdollahi’s son received $150,000; Summers’ mother received $100,000; and Katz, a sole practitioner, and three attorneys who assisted him received $500,000.
The county paid $450,000 of the settlement and the University of California regents $550,000.
The university was involved because the jail’s mental health services were provided by contract with the University of California, Davis, Medical Center through an entity known as Jail Psychiatric Services.
The following description of events leading to each suicide is taken from an order issued two years ago by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr., in which he rejected the defendants’ motions for summary judgment:
Abdollahi, a 51-year-old heroin addict, was a pretrial detainee for offenses involving drugs.
Three days after his incarceration, Abdollahi pressed his cell emergency button and threatened to commit suicide unless he could see a doctor. He was interviewed by a licensed social worker for approximately 10 minutes, who determined that “the individual was not suicidal and was using this as an attempt to get more medication.”
Later that night, a deputy conducting cell checks noticed the light in Abdollahi’s cell was covered with blue paper. When the deputy entered the cell, he noticed Abdollahi had a torn piece of sheet around his neck.
Abdollahi did not respond when asked by the deputy what he was doing with the sheet. The deputy took all parts of the sheet, leaving Abdollahi with a blanket.
At 12:30 a.m. Abdollahi was found hanging. He had used strips of the blanket as a ligature affixed to a hole in the top bunk.
Summers, 23, with a history of drug abuse and psychological problems, was a pretrial detainee for “strong arm robbery.”
After a traumatic day in court, Summers was brought back to his cell and left unchecked for the balance of the day. The only deputy working in Summers’ housing unit that day indicated in the log book that he had performed cell checks when, in fact, he had not.
An inmate worker found Summers’ body at 5:45 p.m. Prior to his death, Summers had scrawled a suicide note on the wall of the cell. The state of the body indicated he had been dead for some time.
He hanged himself from a hole in the top bunk, using a torn-up sheet as a ligature.
Arambula, 32, was serving time for an immigration violation. Upon his arrival, jail personnel were made aware that he had a history of psychiatric issues and suicide attempts.
Jail Psychiatric Services made a finding that he was psychotic and continued his anti-psychotic medication at a low dosage.
On July 24, 2003, Arambula flooded his cell, engaged in an animated conversation with himself and repeatedly banged his forehead into sliding glass doors. After deputies subdued him, Arambula began banging his head on the concrete floor. He was then placed in a restraint chair.
Deputies involved in the incident were never alerted to Arambula’s history of suicide attempts and psychiatric problems or the fact that he had stopped taking prescribed anti-psychotic medication.
An unlicensed social worker was summoned and spent approximately 10 minutes with Arambula. She told deputies that there was no need for any special precautions and opined that he was simply “whiny.”
Arambula was placed back in his cell, where four hours later, he was found hanging by a sheet from a fire sprinkler.
Date Posted: 23:09:24 11/19/07 Mon
Correctional officer arrested for DUI
A correctional officer at California State Prison, Sacramento, was arrested in Folsom early this morning on charges of driving under the influence, according to the Folsom Police Department.
Brian James Omand, 37, of Sacramento was arrested at 12:46 a.m. this morning on the 12500 block of Folsom Boulevard, according to an arrest report.
Details of the arrest were unavailable, but Folsom Police Department spokeswoman Off. Michelle Beattie said it appeared to “be a simple traffic stop that resulted in a DUI arrest.”
Lt. Denise Laguna, a spokeswoman for Folsom State Prison, which shares grounds with California State Prison, Sacramento, confirmed that Omand is employed as a Correctional Officer at the facility.
Date Posted: 06:23:02 11/19/07 Mon
Sacramento County California Settles Jail Grenade Incident – Pays Man $85,000
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – The legacy of the notorious “flash-bang” incident nearly two years ago at the Sacramento County Main Jail lives on.
The county paid former inmate Claudis Jefferson $85,000 last week to resolve his administrative claim in connection with the incident.
On Dec. 1, 2005, a sheriff’s cell extraction team dressed in full riot gear tossed stun grenades into six cells in response to an inmate protest – five violent inmates had flooded their eighth-floor cells by clogging the toilets.
The explosions are louder than a jet at takeoff and brighter than 8 million candles, and typically are used as distractions in riot or hostage situations.
The water had been shut off, but the rationale for using the weapons was that they would stun and disorient the inmates and ease their removal from the cells.
The incident was featured in a Bee series on excessive-force allegations aimed at jail staff.
Jefferson, who did not flood his cell, was housed on a lower level of the cell block, while the other five inmates were on a second level.
After the other five had been taken out of their cells, the team used a grenade on Jefferson, because he was identified as attempting to incite inmates on the upper tier by yelling for them to resist during the cell extraction process.
The 44-year-old Jefferson, who was a pretrial detainee on a drug possession charge, claimed he sustained an injury to his left arm when he was roughed up by deputies, as well as impaired sight and hearing resulting from the explosion.
“Even under the officers’ version, all Claudis did was be mouthy, as opposed to clogging the plumbing,” Jefferson’s attorney, Stewart Katz, said in an interview. “The deputies’ conduct was deplorable. The flash-bang grenades were clearly misused.”
Three of the other inmates filed administrative claims with the county, according to Steve Page, the county’s risk manager. Two of those claims were denied; the third was filed after the filing deadline, he said.
None of them has sued the county, Page said.
Jefferson has a much less violent history than the other inmates involved in the incident.
“While Claudis is no angel, he is a choirboy compared to the other victims of the flash-bang grenades,” Katz said.
Once they had been taken from their cells, the six inmates were strapped for more than two hours into “prostraint” chairs, devices designed to subdue unruly prisoners.
Chief Deputy Bill Kelly, who had oversight responsibility for the jail, said this at the time of the incident about using flash-bangs: “Policy is they can use it whenever they need to distract someone.”
In an interview last year, Scott Jones, then a lieutenant and the Sheriff’s Department’s legal adviser and now a captain and commander of the jail, said the incident “made us take a really critical look at how these things are used and how we want them to be used. The policy was not as well defined as we wanted it to be. We had all assumed common sense would prevail.”
Jones drafted a revised policy that strictly curtails the use of flash-bangs in a cell “absent clear evidence that the inmate has armed himself with some type of weapon” or when someone is in imminent danger.
In a June 2006 report, the District Attorney’s Office said the flash-bang incident “raises significant questions regarding jail operations and the treatment of inmates.”
According to the report, however, the evidence was insufficient to warrant criminal prosecution of the deputies involved, including Donald Black, the probationary sergeant who was the watch commander at the time of the incident and gave the order to use the grenades.
The district attorney’s report said the inmates were not given an opportunity to leave their cells voluntarily.
Instead, according to the report, the grenades were tossed through the food ports in the cell doors just seconds after Black directed each inmate to lie down on the floor of the cell and without anyone first determining whether the order had been followed.
Black later was demoted.
In a statement taken from Jefferson and included in the report, he said a deputy peered into his cell and told him to get out of bed and onto the cell floor. He claimed he was getting out of bed when a “bomb” was inserted into his cell and exploded. The cell door opened and a group of deputies entered as he was moving face down to the cell floor, he recalled.
Posted on Thu, Nov. 01, 2007
County Jail officer convicted of engaging in sexual activity with inmate
23-year-old, accused of asking a female to flash him, is convicted of engaging in sexual activity with an inmate; he no longer works at jail
A former correctional officer at County Jail accused of asking a female inmate to flash him was convicted Wednesday of engaging in sexual activity with an inmate while a jail employee.
Steven Edward Irysh, 23, pleaded no contest—which results in a conviction without admitting guilt —to the misdemeanor charge, according to Deputy District Attorney Craig Van Rooyen.
The misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure was dropped as part of the plea deal.
Irysh faces up to a year in jail but will likely be sentenced Dec. 5 to 45 days in custody, Van Rooyen said.
San Luis Obispo attorney Trace Milan, who represented Irysh on Wednesday, said his client wants to put the situation behind him and agreed to the offer because it was in his best interest.
“I think he regards it as one of the biggest mistakes of his life,” Milan said. “He has started working again and put himself back in school to try and create a new career path.”
As part of the probation terms, the former correctional officer may be ordered to receive counseling. The three-year probation will likely not affect Irysh’s ability to carry a firearm, Milan said.
Irysh was charged after jail employees reviewing outgoing mail discovered an officer had asked a female inmate to flash him, sheriff’s officials said.
The no-contest plea is related to an incident in which Irysh masturbated in front of a female inmate.
The crime happened between March 13 and 28.
As of April 3, Irysh was no longer working at the jail; he had been employed there less than two years, sheriff’s officials said.
Date Posted: 05:44:42 10/31/07 Wed
Lawsuit Charges Sacramento County California Deputy Sheriff’s With Beating And Mistreating Man in Jail.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – A former inmate suing the county over his treatment at the Sacramento County Jail testified Tuesday in federal court that he was brutalized by sheriff’s deputies there two years ago.
Branden Johnson testified that he did nothing to justify the harsh treatment he was subjected to by deputies and claimed that he was slammed face first onto the concrete floor of the jail’s garage. He also testified that he was tossed into a padded cell, briefly knocking him unconscious when his head hit the wall, and chained for a time to a floor grate that served as the cell’s toilet.
Date Posted: 16:43:38 09/16/07 Sun
Ranking California Mens Colony Prison Official Steven Daniel Byrd Arrested, Suspended, Charged With Batter And Domestic Violence After Attack On His Stepson
LOS OSOS, CALIFORNIA – Prosecutors have charged a high-ranking local prison official with battery and domestic violence.
Steven Daniel Byrd, 39, of Los Osos, was charged with felony battery causing serious bodily injury and felony domestic violence, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Brown.
Byrd was arraigned late Friday but did not enter a plea because he was not represented by an attorney. He is scheduled to return to court Monday.
The sergeant at the California Mens Colony was arrested Wednesday after neighbors called 911 to report a woman screaming.
When they arrived, deputies found Byrd in his apartment in the 700 block of Santa Ysabel Avenue in Los Osos with his 22-year-old stepson and wife, sheriff’s officials said.
The pair said Byrd tried to choke his stepson after an argument over rap music, sheriff’s officials said. He was allegedly on top of his stepson, choking him until he became unconscious and threatening to kill him, sheriff’s officials said.
The pair were treated by paramedics and released.
Byrd is being held at County Jail in lieu of $500,000 and is on paid administrative leave from the prison where he supervises other officers, prison official Mike Siebert said.
Date Posted: 17:10:26 07/27/07 Fri
Santa Clara County California Correctional Officer Jose Perez Charged With Sexual Activity With Transgender Inmate
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA ¨C A Santa Clara County correctional officer was arrested July 19 for alleged unlawful consensual sexual activity with a prisoner in November 2006, according to the Santa Clara County Department of Correction.
Correctional officer Jose Perez, 42, was released on $5,000 bail on July 20.
The San Jose Mercury News reported July 21 that the prisoner involved in the case is transgender.
Officials aren¡¯t releasing any personal information about the prisoner.
The Mercury News reported that Perez faces a year in jail if convicted for a misdemeanor charge that he ¡°groped a 30-year-old transgender inmate¡¯s breast over the shirt at Santa Clara County Main Jail¡± during a three-day period last November. According to the article, another inmate who ¡°spied the pair on the main jail¡¯s sun deck November 5¡å reported the alleged incident.
¡°It was a one-time incident, according to the inmate,¡± said Sergeant Ed Wise, public information officer of the Santa Clara County Sheriff¡¯s Department, who told the Bay Area Reporter that the prisoner didn¡¯t report the incident and admitted that it was consensual.
The district attorney¡¯s office issued a warrant for Perez after a criminal investigation was completed by the Santa Clara County Sheriff¡¯s office, according to Wise. Wise told the B.A.R. that he doesn¡¯t know when Perez is supposed to appear in court again.
¡°Periodically we get these cases,¡± said Mike Fletcher, supervising deputy district attorney in the sexual assault unit of the Santa Clara District Attorney¡¯s office, on July 23. ¡°Whether the inmate is transgender or not we don¡¯t track cases that way. It doesn¡¯t matter. We take all of the cases we file seriously.¡±
Transgender civil rights and anti-violence activists expressed alarm at the news.
¡°I consider this extremely serious that a correctional officer is sexually assaulting an inmate,¡± said Tina D¡¯Elia, hate violence survivor program director at Community United Against Violence. ¡°But unfortunately, transgender people such as this inmate face rape and abuse on a daily basis in prisons and jails.¡±
Chris Daley, director of the Transgender Law Center, agreed.
¡°It has been found that any kind of sexual relationship between correctional officer, deputy, or guards and by an inmate or prisoner is not consensual because of the power dynamic between the officer and the prisoner,¡± Daley said.
Daley is currently working with Transgender Equality Alliance Rights, a collaboration of transgender civil rights organizations, to coordinate legislative hearings on the rights of LGBT prisoners, especially around sexual violence, sometime next summer.
Sheriff¡¯s office and correction department officials launched investigations last November after the accusations of sexual misconduct were reported, according to Wise. A Santa Clara County Correction Department press release on July 20 stated that Perez was charged for allegedly ¡°inappropriately touching a male inmate over his clothing.¡±
According to the press release, Perez, a 14-year veteran of the correction department, is on paid administrative leave and is under an internal administrative investigation as well. His leave started at the time the allegation was brought to officials¡¯ attention. Perez will remain on leave ¡°pending the outcome¡± of the criminal and the internal administrative investigations.
¡°[Perez] should face consequences and be held accountable for his behavior, seeing that he is a 14-year veteran of his department who probably holds all of the power in this circumstance,¡± said D¡¯Elia.
Date Posted: 17:07:31 07/20/07 Fri
Veteran Santa Clara County California Corrections Officer Jose Perez Arrested, Suspended, Charged With Sex With Transgender Inmate
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – A Santa Clara County correctional officer was arrested Thursday on suspicion of engaging in consensual sexual activity with an inmate.
Mark Cursi, spokesman for the Santa Clara County Department of Correction, confirmed that an officer was booked Thursday.
“It is a misdemeanor, but for a correctional officer we consider it serious,” he said.
Correctional Officer Jose Perez, 42, faces a year in jail from misdemeanor charges that he groped a 30-year-old transgender inmate’s breast over the shirt at Santa Clara County Main Jail, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Wise said.
He is a 14-year veteran of the department, Cursi said.
The alleged incidents happened over the course of three days in November 2006, according to Wise. The final incident was reported to officers by another inmate who spied the pair on the main jail’s sun deck on Nov. 5.
The Department of Corrections is also investigating the allegations. Perez has been on paid administrative leave since the investigation began in November, Cursi said.
Date Posted: 21:54:02 06/23/07 Sat
Solano County California Correctional Officer Chad Cleveleand Arrested, Jailed On Child Molestation Related Charges
SOLANO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – A correctional officer with the Solano County Sheriff’s Office is in jail on charges of sexual assault on a minor.
Ofc. Chad Cleveland, 40, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, sexual penetration with a foreign object and sexual intercourse with a minor.
The arrest followed an investigation into a report from Napa County Child Protective Services about a correctional officer’s alleged improprieties with an underage female.
Cleveland, a 17-year employee of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, works in a county jail facility.
Bail for Cleveland has been set at $250,000.
Date Posted: 21:50:21 06/23/07 Sat
Santa Rita County California Deputy Sheriff Beaten In Retaliation For San Leandro Police Shooting
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA — The fatal shooting of Hayward resident Lotu Elika by an off-duty San Leandro police officer on Wednesday led to a retaliatory attack against a prison guard later that night, investigators revealed Friday.
Two inmates at Santa Rita county jail, at least one of whom was acquainted with
Elika tricked a sheriff’s deputy into opening their cell door and then assaulted him, said sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson.
The deputy fought with the inmates on the second floor of a two-tiered maximum-security unit at the Dublin jail, fending the two men off long enough for help to arrive, Nelson said.
“The deputy felt the inmates were trying to lift his legs and throw him over the rail,” Nelson said. “A whole posse of deputies came running into the house to quell the situation.”
The jailhouse brawl happened just six hours after a San Leandro police officer shot and killed the 24-year-old Elika at a north Hayward home Wednesday afternoon.
Hayward investigators say Elika first knocked on the door of and later forced his way into the Fuller Avenue house, which the off-duty San Leandro officer was visiting that afternoon with his 7-month-old son.
Police say the officer fatally shot Elika with a handgun after Elika violently attacked him and gained control of the baby, refusing to release the infant despite the officer’s pleas.
News of the violent incident quickly made its way to Santa Rita jail, and Nelson said inmate Wendell Laupati, 21, of Newark, spearheaded
the 10:40 p.m. attack on the guard, with the help of his cellmate William Delgadillo, 33, of Castro Valley.
“This attack on the deputy in the jail was done for no other reason than he was a law enforcement person that these two inmates had access to,” Nelson said. He called the jail incident a “direct result” of the officer-involved shooting that happened about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“(Investigators) have made a connection between the suspects in this case and the victim,” said Nelson. “There’s some sort of friendship. They’re acquaintances, let’s put it that way.”
Laupati and Delgadillo were both awaiting trials on drug charges and parole violations. Delgadillo also faced a charge of evading a police officer.
They now face additional assault-related charges and likely will be placed into units with “even higher security,” Nelson said. Asked if the suspects had any gang ties, Nelson said detectives are still investigating any connections they had with Elika.
Meanwhile, the Hayward Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting. Police won’t reveal the name of the officer but say he is on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice for such incidents.
Roughly 15 minutes before the shooting, police officers in south Hayward say they spotted Elika while he was a passenger in a car being driven “recklessly” on Tennyson Road.
The officers thought Elika was someone they knew, who had outstanding warrants.
They attempted to catch up to the vehicle. The driver, a female who had an outstanding warrant, got onto northbound Interstate 880 and began “driving recklessly down the shoulder of the freeway,” according to a police statement. Police officers ended their pursuit.
They later discovered Elika was not the person they thought he was.
Elika and the woman, who was arrested but whom police have not identified, showed up soon afterward outside a home near the West A Street exit of I-880. Elika knocked on the door of “an apparent random residence,” asking to use the phone because of a traffic collision, police said.
The off-duty officer, cradling his baby, answered the door and said Elika could use the home’s portable phone outside the residence.
Hayward police spokesman Sgt. James Denholm said what happened next remains under investigation, but he said Elika, who weighed roughly 330 pounds, forcibly entered the home, and began violently attacking the officer and gained control of the baby.
The officer took out a handgun and fired at Elika after he “failed to comply with (the officer’s) pleas to release the infant,” according to the police statement. Elika died after being taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Elika’s family members could not be reached for comment.
Denholm said Elika had a criminal record dating back to 1996, when he was still in his early teens, and was out on parole for one of two auto theft convictions he received in 2004.
Date Posted: 08:12:49 06/09/07 Sat
Grand Jury Finds Management Problems At Orange County California Sheriff’s Office Jails, Impending Overcrowding
SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA – The Orange County Grand Jury took renewed aim at the Sheriff’s Department’s overcrowded jails, reporting Thursday that relief was at least two years away and warning that state prison changes threatened to worsen the problem.
In its 18-page report, the panel also recommended that as many as 40 full-time deputies be hired to work at the 576-bed Building B at the Theo Lacy Branch Jail. The building, one of several on the compound, is staffed exclusively by deputies working overtime at a cost of $5.5 million, money that could be better used to cover the full-time salaries, the panel said.
“The advantage of using overtime is that no additional pension or healthcare benefits must be paid,” the grand jury wrote. “However, this savings is offset by the additional cost of overtime pay and the stress that overtime work could, in the long run, result in an increase in sick leave and poorer job performance.”
The grand jury recommended that the Sheriff’s Department expand its hiring program to reduce the need for overtime deputies; work with state lawmakers to ensure that the governor’s plan does not burden the jails; and expedite plans to expand the James A. Musick jail, which has about 1,300 beds but is slated for 7,500 at final build-out.
For the most part, the grand jury’s annual review echoed criticisms about overcrowding raised year after year by previous panels.
Although the report is the first issued since the slaying of an inmate last year, it makes only passing reference to the death’s being the first homicide since 1994.
The Orange County district attorney’s office has impaneled a special grand jury to investigate allegations that John Derek Chamberlain was fatally beaten by fellow inmates Oct. 5 after guards allegedly told them, mistakenly, that he had been accused of child molestation. In fact, Chamberlain had been charged with possession of child pornography.
Chamberlain was killed in a minimum-security unit known as F Barracks West at Theo Lacy in Orange. With a capacity for 3,111 men, Theo Lacy is the largest of the department’s five jails and houses primarily maximum-security inmates.
Six current and former inmates have been charged with murder in Chamberlain’s death. His father has filed a $20-million wrongful-death claim against the county, alleging that guards allowed influential inmates to review paperwork outlining the charges and mistakenly told inmates that Chamberlain was a child molester.
The Sheriff’s Department denies allegations that a deputy revealed information on Chamberlain.
Assistant Sheriff Charlie Walters, head of jail operations, did not return a call seeking comment on the grand jury’s report. The department is required to respond to the findings and recommendations.
The grand jury found that the average inmate population in Orange County continued to grow, hovering at 6,777 in March, up from 6,162 two years earlier.
The increase followed the 2006 opening of Building B at Theo Lacy, which, contrary to expectations, failed to ease the crunch at the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana and the Musick facility east of Irvine.
The Sheriff’s Department also operates at an inmate-to-staff ratio that is more than twice the national average, with nearly 32 inmates for each on-duty, sworn deputy, the panel found.
The report says that overcrowding issues would be exacerbated by the governor’s prison plan. Under it, the county would have to release thousands of convicted felons to make room for about 3,500 inmates sentenced to state prison terms of three years or less, the panel found.
Currently, the county has to retain only those convicts with sentences of a year or less and inmates awaiting trial or other court proceedings.
To accommodate the governor’s initiative, the jails — which are not built to house long-term, higher-level inmates — would have to be reclassified to handle more dangerous offenders, and additional staff would have to be hired, the panel found.
The grand jury also praised 17 deputies for heroic efforts, including saving inmates from choking and killing themselves.
Date Posted: 08:46:43 06/04/07 Mon
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – San Francisco Sheriff’s Department deputies allegedly beat inmates they were guarding at the County Jail, breaking one prisoner’s nose and another’s back, according to two federal civil-rights lawsuits filed in 2005.
The lawsuits will go to trial this summer after lawyers failed to come to a resolution at a hearing Friday, plaintiff’s attorney Scot Candell said Tuesday. Allegations of a “pattern and practice” of excessive force were dismissed earlier this year, but civil lawsuits by four inmates remain against eight individual deputies.
The lawsuits were originally filed in 2005, after plaintiffs felt their complaints against deputies were being ignored, Candell said Tuesday.
Unlike the San Francisco Police Department, there is no independent civilian office that investigates citizens’ complaints against the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Originally, the two lawsuits asked the federal Ninth District court to order The City to create a body such as the Office of Citizens’ Complaints to deal with the Sheriff’s Department.
Because the allegations of wide-ranging abuse were thrown out, the court will have no authority over city policy, but Candell said he hopes the individual lawsuits will garner enough attention to spur lawmakers into the creation of such a body.
The alleged abuses violated the inmates’ rights to liberty, he said.
“These are all people who are pre-trial detainees, which means they haven’t been convicted of anything yet. If they had the money, they’d post bail. They have a right to be safe. It’s the job of the deputies and the job of The City to keep them safe and to protect them,” Candell said.
But because the allegations of wide-ranging abuse were dropped from the lawsuit, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s spokesman Matt Dorsey said a potentially major case had been “all but gutted.”
“The lion’s share of those claims were dismissed,” Dorsey said. “There are four remaining plaintiffs with allegations against individual deputies, but we remain very confident of The City’s legal position.” He said the allegations were meritless.
The remaining claims allege deputies, including a 13-year veteran, engaged in excessively violent uses of force. One claim, by plaintiff Mack Woodfox, alleges that the veteran punched him and beat his head against the ground after Woodfox did not want to take the breakfast brought to him.
In another case, a plaintiff alleges he was hog-tied, kicked and beaten after asking for an extension cord to watch television. The victim lost consciousness, and suffered a broken back and internal bleeding, according to the complaint.
Sheriff Department’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said inmates have ample opportunities to file complaints with the department’s Internal Affairs Division, which investigates allegations of misconduct. They can file complaints by telephone, mail or in person through a member of the department’s staff.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for people to contact ISU,” Hirst said.
Correctional officer arrested, suspected of possessing child porn
A correctional officer living in Lemoore is alleged to have been in possession of thousands of pornographic images depicting children on his computer.
Earl McKinney, 40, was arrested Thursday and is charged with a misdemeanor county of possession of child pornography, and a felony count of possession obscene material of a minor.
He bailed out at $40,000 just hours after his arrest.
Assistant Sheriff Rene Hanavan said authorities received a tip several months ago from a computer company that McKinney had child pornography on his Web site.
“We started examining the contents of his Web page, and we determined that there was illegal material contained in it,” said Hanavan.
No local victims have been identified.
The investigation has been on going since approximately November.
On Monday at 10:30 a.m., and authorities arrested McKinney at his house on the 200 block of Lake Drive.
“He was completely and thoroughly cooperative with the investigators,” Hanavan said of McKinney’s arrest.
McKinney is a correctional officer at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.
It is unknown whether he will continue his post as he continues through the court process.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Tony Brandt of the Kings County Sheriff’s Department at 582-0471, ext. 2805.
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