Ex-deputy tes­ti­fies against for­mer co-work­ers at jail

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

As fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors pressed ahead Thurs­day with their abuse case against three Los An­ge­les County sher­iff ’s deputies, the man who was beaten by them as well as a for­mer deputy took the stand.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that the deputies hand­cuffed and then beat Gabriel Car­rillo, who had come to visit his brother at Men’s Cen­tral Jail, af­ter Car­rillo was found car­ry­ing a cell­phone in vi­o­la­tion of jail rules and mouthing off to a deputy.

The deputies are also ac­cused of ly­ing about what hap­pened dur­ing the Fe­bru­ary 2011 en­counter by falsely claim­ing in re­ports and court tes­ti­mony that Car­rillo at­tacked them when one of his hands was un­cuffed for fin­ger­print­ing.

On trial are Deputies Sussie Ayala and Fer­nando Lu­viano and for­mer Sgt. Eric Gon­za­lez, a su­per­vi­sor at the jail visi­tors cen­ter.

All three are ac­cused of us­ing un­rea­son­able force on Car­rillo and fal­si­fy­ing records to ob­struct jus­tice. Ayala and Gon­za­lez also face charges of con­spir­ing to vi­o­late Car­rillo’s civil rights. Each has pleaded not guilty.

De­fense at­tor­neys in­sisted dur­ing open­ing state­ments that only one of Car­rillo’s hands was cuffed and that he had swung the loose re­straints like a weapon. They por­trayed the visi­tors cen­ter as a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous, highly charged place and said the deputies were jus­ti­fied in sub­du­ing Car­rillo as they did.

The deputies’ re­ports and state­ments on the in­ci­dent af­ter­ward were ac­cu­rate, the at­tor­neys said.

Lead­ing up to the trial, two other deputies who faced charges in the case struck deals with pros­e­cu­tors and agreed to tes­tify against the re­main­ing de­fen­dants. On Thurs­day, Noel Wo­mack, the sec­ond of the two deputies, took the stand, tes­ti­fy­ing that Car­rillo was, in fact, hand­cuffed as he was re­peat­edly punched and pep­per­sprayed in a closed room that deputies used for breaks.

Wo­mack also de­scribed how he used the re­port his part­ner wrote on the in­ci­dent as “a guide­line” to make sure his own re­port was in line with the oth­ers. When Car­rillo was later charged with as­sault­ing the deputies, Wo­mack said he lied again in tes­ti­mony he gave at the man’s pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing.

The tes­ti­mony echoed that of Pan­tamitr Zunggeemoge, the other deputy as­sist­ing pros­e­cu­tors, who told jurors in ear­lier tes­ti­mony that Car­rillo was re­strained as he was beaten and that the re­ports were fab­ri­cated.

Ayala’s at­tor­ney, Pa­trick Smith, went af­ter Wo­mack ag­gres­sively on cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, try­ing to ex­pose in­con­sis­ten­cies in his ac­count and ac­cus­ing him of ly­ing about the en­counter with Car­rillo in an at­tempt “to give pros­e­cu­tors what they want to hear” and avoid prison.

Wo­mack pushed back, say­ing he had gone along with the deputies’ con­cocted ac­count of the beat­ing but even­tu­ally de­cided to come clean. “I lied for my part­ners,” he said, his voice thick with emo­tion. “But I got to the point where it wasn’t worth it to hold on to the lie.”

Un­der the terms of his deal with pros­e­cu­tors, Wo­mack had to re­sign from the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment and is barred from be­ing a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer.

Now work­ing as a fork­lift op­er­a­tor in a ware­house, Wo­mack also had to plead guilty to a felony charge of ly- ing to fed­eral of­fi­cials, while the other charges were dropped. He could be sen­tenced to as many as five years in prison.

Car­rillo and his wife, who was also de­tained by deputies the day of the beat­ing, also tes­ti­fied Thurs­day. Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony, pros­e­cu­tors showed jurors photos de­pict­ing in­juries to both of Car­rillo’s wrists that he said were caused by the hand­cuffs cut­ting into his skin dur­ing the beat­ing.

The crim­i­nal charges against Car­rillo were dropped shortly be­fore he was sched­uled to stand trial. The county later paid Car­rillo $1.2 mil­lion to set­tle a civil law­suit.

Pros­e­cu­tors told U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ge­orge H. King they would wrap up their case Fri­day. The at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the three de­fen­dants said they would need a day or two to put on their case and Gon­za­lez’s lawyer told King he ex­pected the for­mer sergeant to tes­tify on his own be­half.

Ayala and Lu­viano have been re­lieved of duty pend­ing the out­come of the trial. Gon­za­lez left the depart­ment in 2013.

Don Bartletti Los An­ge­les Times

GABRIEL CAR­ILLO and his girl­friend Grace Martinez show a photo she took of Car­illo a few days af­ter he was se­verely beaten by Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff deputies in the down­town cen­tral jail.

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