Jury gets deputy beating case
Lawyers make closing arguments in a trial over an incident involving visitor at the Men’s Central Jail.
The federal trial of two Los Angeles County sheriff ’s deputies and their supervisor accused of unjustly beating a man and lying about it ended as it began: With a fight over handcuffs.
On Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys made their closing arguments, bringing an end to the weeklong trial and offering jurors vastly different accounts of the 2011 incident that left Gabriel Carrillo pummeled and badly bloodied.
“This case comes down to one thing,” Assistant U. S. Atty. Brandon Fox, one of the prosecutors in the case, told jurors. “Was Mr. Carrillo handcuffed? If he was handcuffed, then there was a coverup. And if there was a coverup then there must have been a good reason for the coverup.”
On trial are sheriff ’s Deputies Fernando Luviano and Sussie Ayala, and their supervisor at the time, former Sgt. Eric Gonzalez. The three face civil rights charges for their alleged roles in the beating of Carrillo, who prosecutors said was handcuffed throughout the encounter and did nothing to justify the punches to his face and body and pepper spraying that deputies delivered.
The deputies and Gonzalez also face charges they lied to coverup their actions by falsely claiming in reports and court testimony that Carrillo was not restrained.
Attorneys for the three defendants urged jurors in their closing statements to dismiss the prosecutors’ version of events as untrue and returned to a different account they introduced at the trial’s opening. When one of Carrillo’s hands was freed for fingerprinting, they said, he attacked the deputies, swinging the dangling restraints like a weapon.
Along with the charges of excessive force and falsifying records, Ayala and Gonzalez are also accused of conspiring to violate Carrillo’s civil rights. Each has pleaded not guilty.
Both sides agreed about the events leading up to the beating. Carrillo and his girlfriend went to Men’s Central Jail, the main facility in a network of jails operated by the Sheriff ’s Department, to visit Carrillo’s brother, who was an inmate.
When the pair were discovered in the visitors’ waiting area carrying cellphones — a violation of jail rules and state law — deputies handcuffed them and brought them into a side room. Carrillo mouthed off repeatedly to the deputies.
From there, however, the stories of what occurred diverge over the question of the handcuffs.
Two former deputies who also faced charges in the case struck deals with prosecutors that required them to testify against former colleagues. The men said Carrillo was, in fact, handcuffed and they detailed how the group colluded to lie about the beating.
While cross- examining the men, attorneys for the defendants assailed their credibility, trying to portray them as opportunistic liars looking to avoid lengthy prison sentences.
Assistant U. S. Atty. Lizabeth Rhodes told jurors they should believe the former deputies. The men, she said, initially had gone along with the group’s fabricated story in order to preserve an unspoken “code of silence” that forbids law enforcement officers from speaking out about misconduct.
joel. rubin@ latimes. com