Guilty plea by deputy in beat­ing case

Law­man says he and other deputies lied to FBI about vi­o­lent ar­rest of vis­i­tor at L.A. Men’s Cen­tral Jail.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Joel Ru­bin joel.ru­bin@la­times.com

A Los An­ge­les County sher­iff ’s deputy pleaded guilty this week to ly­ing to fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors, mak­ing a deal with pros­e­cu­tors that turns him against other deputies ac­cused of as­sault­ing a jail vis­i­tor.

In a down­town court­room, a somber Noel Wo­mack, 36, ac­knowl­edged to U.S Dis­trict Judge Ge­orge H. King on Tues­day that he tried to mis­lead FBI agents about the vi­o­lent ar­rest of the vis­i­tor.

“Did you do the things charged against you?” King asked.

“Yes, sir,” Wo­mack replied qui­etly, his hands clasped in front of him.

An­other deputy also struck a deal with pros­e­cu­tors, plead­ing guilty ear­lier this year.

This week’s agree­ment marked an about-face for Wo­mack, one of five deputies in­dicted by a fed­eral grand jury on charges they abused jail vis­i­tors on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and con­spired to cover up their mis­deeds. The trial is sched­uled to begin June 16.

From the out­set, Wo­mack and the oth­ers re­main­ing in the case in­sisted on their in­no­cence. But with their trial set to start this month, Wo­mack opted to break ranks with the oth­ers and gave pros­e­cu­tors a new ver­sion of the vi­o­lent 2011 en­counter that took place in a win­dow­less, se­cluded room in the Men’s Cen­tral Jail.

Deputies, he said, beat the jail vis­i­tor even though the man was hand­cuffed and not re­sist­ing as he was held on the f loor, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the agree­ment re­viewed by The Times.

Along with his state­ment, Wo­mack must tes­tify against the three re­main­ing de­fen­dants if pros­e­cu­tors call on him to do so.

The lies came out dur­ing an in­ter­view last month, the plea agree­ment said. Among other false­hoods, Wo­mack told FBI agents he did not know whether the vis­i­tor was hand­cuffed, ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment.

In ex­change for Wo­mack’s co­op­er­a­tion, pros­e­cu­tors dis­missed var­i­ous other charges Wo­mack faced and agreed to sug­gest to King that he not sen­tence Wo­mack to any time in pri­son for the felony con­vic­tion.

At the af­ter­noon hear­ing, King pressed Wo­mack on the de­tails of his deal with pros­e­cu­tors, ask­ing if he fully un­der­stood it and that King could still opt to sen­tence him to as many as five years in pri­son.

“You have no agree­ment with me, do you un­der­stand?” King said.

A hulk­ing man with close cropped hair and glasses, Wo­mack stood along­side his at­tor­ney, Matthew Lom­bard, and told King he un­der­stood.

Wo­mack’s agree­ment re­quires him to re­sign from the L.A. County Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment, and he will be banned from work­ing in law en­force­ment.

The first deputy to make a deal, Pan­tamitr Zunggeemoge, en­tered a guilty plea in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to court records. The agree­ment be­tween pros­e­cu­tors and Zunggeemoge, who faced sev­eral al­le­ga­tions of abuse and dis­hon­esty, was sealed by King, keep­ing its de­tails se­cret.

But a court fil­ing by an­other de­fen­dant last month said Zunggeemoge, too, has told pros­e­cu­tors the vis­i­tor, Gabriel Car­rillo, was hand­cuffed dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing, in his state­ment to pros­e­cu­tors Zunggeemoge said deputies had con­cocted a story that only one of the man’s hands was cuffed to jus­tify their use of force. The fil­ing also said that Zunggeemoge agreed to co­op­er­ate fully and tes­tify for the gov­ern­ment.

Car­rillo, who had come to the jail to visit his brother, was de­tained with his girl­friend af­ter Zunggeemoge be­came sus­pi­cious that the woman was car­ry­ing a cell­phone in vi­o­la­tion of jail rules. Car­rillo said some­thing com­bat­ive that an­gered one of the deputies, which led to the beat­ing, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

With­out the first­hand ac­counts from the deputies, the case would rest heav­ily on the abil­ity of the beaten man and other al­leged vic­tims to con­vince ju­rors of what hap­pened.

At­tor­neys for the re­main­ing de­fen­dants in­di­cated they would attack the cred­i­bil­ity of Wo­mack and Zunggeemoge.

Fol­low­ing Wo­mack’s ap­pear­ance in court, pros­e­cu­tors re­vised the in­dict­ment in the case, win­now­ing it down to in­clude only al­le­ga­tions that stem from the en­counter with Car­rillo, to whom the county paid $1.2 mil­lion to set­tle a civil rights law­suit.

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