Feds: ‘What’s wrong with LA Jailers?’ Inmate: ‘Beats me!’
The federal sting to uncover brutality at the LA County Jail took a hit late last month when a jury deadlocked in the trial of the first of 6 indicted deputies. James Sexton was the least senior deputy indicted to date, charged with a single count of obstruction of justice. After less than two days the jury split evenly on the question of his guilt.
Using Sexton’s own grand jury testimony, prosecutors argued that he knew he was breaking the law when he and others kept the federal informant in “dark corners of the jail,” then moved the man from jail to jail under a string of aliases.
But Sexton’s attorneys said the young deputy, with just three years in the department, was following orders from his superiors, and called former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to the stand to prove the point…(Los Angeles Times 5/22/14)
Deputy Gilbert Michel, who pleaded guilty to bribery in 2012, is cooperating with prosecutors hoping to reduce a prospective 10 year prison term. His testimony details a “culture of abuse” entailing “beating inmates unprovoked, slapping them, shooting them with a Taser gun and aggressively searching them to pick a fight — something he learned “on the job.” He would huddle with other jail guards to get their stories straight and write up reports with bogus scenarios justifying the brutality. If the inmate had no visible injuries, he wouldn’t report the use of force, period…(Los Angeles Times 6/3/14)
Michel’s own corruption provided the FBI with the toehold needed to get inside what appears to be institutionalized brutality–He provided a cellphone to an inmate who turned out to be an FBI informant. The bribe he accepted apparently provided the leverage needed to force Michel’s cooperation. However, as Sexton’s hung jury attests, Michel’s pervasive misconduct taints his testimony in the minds of many jurors.
As the US Attorney decides whether or not to take another crack at Sexton, the trials of 5 others, including 2 lieutenants and 2 sergeants, proceeds with Michel as the star witness.
Without regard to Sexton’s case, the County of Los Angeles is already paying dearly over a related case of brutality.
Gabriel Carrillo, 26, will receive 1.2 million for a severe beating he received while being booked for the attempted smuggling of a cellphone through visiting. The settlement was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week. (Los Angeles Times 5/29/14)
A hung jury notwithstanding, the case against the 6 is substantial. While Paco objects to the FBI’s tactics, unlawfully introducing a cellphone into the jail, it is apparent the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department operates its jails using force and intimidation to control the population.
In that context, potential convictions or acquittals aside, a jail operated as described cannot be tolerated. Not in the USA. Here’s hoping the pending trials and, more importantly, the ongoing investigation into administrative complicity, roots out the bad apples in LA County Corrections. -