Ex-LA County sheriff’s deputies sentenced to prison for beating of jail visitor

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal prison for ex-sheriff’s deputies who beat handcuffed jail visitor?.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies convicted in the beating of a handcuffed jail visitor and an attempt to cover it up have been sentenced to prison. Nearly two-dozen members of the department, including the former second-in-command, have been charged with crimes ranging from beatings to obstruction of justice. Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano were convicted in June of federal criminal civil rights offenses stemming from the assault on Gabriel Carrillo on Feb. 26, 2011, at the Men’s Central Jail.

Ayala’s attorney had argued that his client did not carry out the assault, but the judge found that Ayala was “the instigator” of the chain of events that led to the beating and, therefore, shared responsibility. During a weeklong trial in downtown Los Angeles, two other ex-jail deputies — Neal Womack and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge — testified for the prosecution against their former partners, saying the beat-down inflicted on Carrillo was excessive, illegal and entirely unnecessary. Prosecutors said that during the 45-second assault in a private break room, Luviano and others threw Carrillo — both hands handcuffed behind his back — to the ground and then punched and pepper-sprayed him. Afterward, Luviano, Ayala and their supervisor “huddled” to figure out a way to justify the use of force in order to complete a “probable cause declaration,” a document used to explain an official use of violence, federal prosecutors said.

The first brutality case that went to trial centered on Carrillo’s attempt in February 2011 to visit his brother, then an inmate at Men’s Central Jail. When Carrillo and his then-girlfriend were found carrying cellphones in the lobby of the jail visiting center — a violation of state law — they were handcuffed and taken into a private room. The convictions in Carrillo’s beating came as part of a federal investigation into civil rights abuses and corruption in the nation’s largest county jail system. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, are asking that King sentence Ayala to, at most, 18 months in home detention followed by three years of “intensive” supervised release.

In pre-sentencing papers, Ayala’s attorney, Patrick Smith, urged the court not to lump his client “in with a group of testosterone-filled deputies,” such as Womack and Zunggeemoge, who have “extensive use-of-force histories.” Unlike her co-defendants, Ayala did not physically assault Carrillo, but “overreacted” by calling for back-up when the victim boasted that he could “take” the deputies if only he were not handcuffed, Smith wrote. Ayala, who was 25 years old at the time of the assault, was an “impressionable … low-level, relatively inexperienced deputy,” according to her attorney. As for Luviano, defense attorney Bernard Rosen, conceding that a prison term will invariably be part of his client’s sentence, recommends an 18-month sentence split evenly between federal prison and community placement or home detention. Prosecutors argued during the trial that Ayala, Luviano and other deputies — under Gonzalez’s guidance — concocted a story that Carrillo had attacked the deputies and tried to escape when one of his hands was uncuffed for fingerprinting. Additionally, Rosen is expected to argue that King not order Luviano immediately into custody but instead give the defendant a self-surrender date sometime after the holidays.

Luviano, Rhodes wrote, has a history of violence and was “frequently involved in significant force” incidents while working on the jail’s “3000 floor,” a place reserved for the most dangerous inmates and known for frequent clashes between deputies and prisoners. Jury foreman Tony Tran, 35, of Diamond Bar, told KPCC there was little debate about the verdict and that no one entered deliberations saying the defendants were innocent. It was “pretty much obvious” that Carrillo was handcuffed, Tran said. “Both wrists had injuries — that kind of indicated both hands were handcuffed.” Womack also blamed much of the beating on Gonzalez, saying he directed deputies to “snatch up” and arrest anyone who looked suspicious. Gonzalez “encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law,” including unreasonable searches and seizures, unlawful arrests, unjustified force and falsified reports, according to the indictment. Avrahamy, Gonzalez’s attorney, argued that when Gonzalez took charge of the visitation center at the jail in March 2010, “the place was a mess,” with convicted felons and gang members being allowed to visit inmates against policy.

Byron Dredd, the sixth former deputy in the Carrillo case, was indicted last month on federal charges for his alleged involvement in falsifying internal reports. The testimony was a coup for prosecutors, who argued that an unspoken “code of silence” forbids law enforcement officers from outing other officers for misconduct. Jurors said they concluded Carrillo had been handcuffed during the beating after viewing photographs taken the day after the encounter showing dark red abrasions and swelling on both of his wrists.

He said Womack and another deputy who reached a plea agreement in the case in February, Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, were only turning against Gonzalez and fellow deputies to save themselves. “I didn’t have any trouble believing [the deputies’] testimony,” Tran told KPCC.

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