Jail guards admit to battering teen

CHEYENNE – Three Sweetwater County jail guards pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery Wednesday for their roles in roughly booking a 16-year-old boy who hit his head when two of the officers slammed him on the floor.

The officers – Cpl. Elizabeth Lopez, Cpl. Matt Weber and deputy Leeland Reese – entered their pleas before Sweetwater County Magistrate Marv Tyler, who fined them $330 each.

Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell said in a release that the three officers were disciplined after an internal investigation. All three have returned to work, although one has since provided notice of resignation.

Sheriff’s officials wouldn’t disclose how the officers were disciplined or which of the three has resigned, saying those are confidential personnel issues. However, the special prosecutor in the case, Carbon County deputy attorney Cal Rerucha, said in court that the three received “prompt, appropriate and ongoing” discipline, according to the sheriff’s release.

Rerucha’s office referred questions to the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s office, which declined to comment on the case beyond the sheriff’s release.

The affidavit in the case, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, said that photos taken of the boy after he was booked at the jail on Nov. 19 showed strangulation marks on his neck, abrasions on his back and a left eye that was nearly swollen shut.

Weber had held the boy around the throat and Reese pinned the boy against a wall, then both men forced the boy to the floor of the booking room, according to the affidavit.

“His head caught the impact of the force as it hit the floor,” the affidavit said.

After that, the three officers picked up the boy and threw him face-down on a cell cot.

The boy and his 15-year-old girlfriend were booked after a van ride from juvenile court in Green River. Problems began when the boy and girl began talking, and Lopez told them to be quiet because Judge Nena James had ordered them not to have contact with one another.

The youths became upset with Lopez, leading to an increasingly turbulent exchange in which Lopez, after the van arrived inside the jail, called the boy a vulgar name and he responded with a vulgar name for her.

A deputy told investigators that Lopez became “fuming hot” and cursed the two youths “like you can’t imagine.”

The boy and girl were wearing leg chains and handcuffs fastened to waist restraints, and they didn’t physically resist. The two “couldn’t have fought if they wanted to, even passively,” the deputy told the Uinta County Sheriff’s officials who investigated the case at Haskell’s request.

Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU in Wyoming, said she was concerned that the corrections officers didn’t face a more serious charge than misdemeanor battery. Burt also questioned whether the officers had received special training to handle juveniles.

“That’s a huge problem in Wyoming, that we don’t have many officers who are trained to deal with juveniles,” Burt said. “Clearly this wasn’t an appropriate response for either a juvenile or adult.”
source: http://billingsgazette.net/info/?h/contact/

One Response

  1. This is utter bs. If civilians did this to anyone, they would be in jail, law enforcement is held to a higher standard, my foot!!! Not all cope are bad, you would think that the good, decent cops would be screaming there heads off because not only are bad cops a danger to private citizens, but they are a real danger to the few good ones we have.

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