Jury gets deputy beat­ing case

Lawyers make clos­ing ar­gu­ments in a trial over an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing visi­tor at the Men’s Cen­tral Jail.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Joel Ru­bin

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

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