DEPUTIES GUILTY IN JAIL VISI­TOR BEAT­ING

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Joel Ru­bin

Three Los An­ge­les County sher­iff ’ s deputies were con­victed Wed­nes­day of beat­ing a hand­cuffed man bloody and then ly­ing to cover up the abuse.

A fed­eral jury de­lib­er­ated for only four hours be­fore re­turn­ing guilty ver­dicts against Deputies Sussie Ayala and Fer­nando Lu­viano and for­mer Sgt. Eric Gon­za­lez, who su­per­vised the in­ci­dent and boasted about the as­sault in a text mes­sage to a col­league.

The trial, in which two other deputies tes­ti­fied about the coverup and a “code of si­lence” in law en­force­ment, was the first public air­ing of bru­tal­ity charges to stem from a wide- rang­ing FBI probe into the county’s jails. Nine other deputies were pre­vi­ously con­victed of other crimes, in­clud­ing ob­struct­ing the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Rank- and- f ile of­fi­cers face more charges of phys­i­cal abuse in two up­com­ing tri­als, while last month for­mer As­sis­tant Sher­iff Paul Tanaka, once the sec­ond­high­est- rank­ing of­fi­cial in the depart­ment, and a cap­tain were in­dicted on ob­struc­tion charges.

Sher­iff Jim McDon­nell,

who was elected last year amid the jail abuse scan­dal, said in a state­ment: “When an em­ployee en­gages in acts of dis­hon­esty or mis­treats mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, he or she acts con­trary to our mis­sion. This ver­dict — and the past acts of a few — should not be viewed as a ref lec­tion of the in­tegrity, ded­i­ca­tion and deep com­mit­ment to public ser­vice by the many mem­bers of this depart­ment.”

The week­long trial cen­tered on the Fe­bru­ary 2011 ar­rest of Gabriel Car­rillo, who had come with his girl­friend and grand­mother to visit his brother, who was an in­mate in the Men’s Cen­tral Jail. He and his girl­friend were hand­cuffed and taken into cus­tody af­ter deputies found them car­ry­ing cell­phones, which is against state law. Car­rillo mouthed off re­peat­edly to the deputies.

From the out­set, the case hinged on the ques­tion of whether Car­rillo was hand­cuffed at the time of the beat­ing. Pros­e­cu­tors said he was shack­led and had done noth­ing to jus­tify the bar­rage of punches and pep­per spray that deputies ad­min­is­tered as he was pinned face- down on the f loor.

De­fense at­tor­neys, mean­while, in­sisted that the deputies and Gon­za­lez were telling the truth when they wrote in re­ports that one of Car­rillo’s hands had been un­cuffed for fin­ger­print­ing and that he had at­tacked them with the loose re­straints.

The jury’s fore­man, Tony Tran, and a sec­ond ju­ror said in in­ter­views that pho­to­graphs taken the day af­ter the en­counter show­ing dark red abra­sions and swelling on both of Car­rillo’s wrists were com­pelling pieces of ev­i­dence.

“We all came to the con- clu­sion that he was hand­cuffed the en­tire time,” Tran said. “And there­fore the re­ports must have been fal­si­fied.”

Only Gon­za­lez showed emo­tion as the court clerk read the ver­dict aloud, lean­ing for­ward in his seat and plac­ing his head in his hands. U. S. Dis­trict Judge Ge­orge H. King al­lowed the three to re­main free on bond against the wishes of pros­e­cu­tors, who wanted them taken into cus­tody.

The three are sched­uled to be sen­tenced in Novem­ber. As­sis­tant U. S. Atty. Lizabeth Rhodes, the lead pros­e­cu­tor in the case, said she would ask King to sen­tence Ayala and Lu­viano to at least 70 months in prison. The sen­tence for Gon­za­lez should be longer, Rhodes said, be­cause he had a pat­tern of al­low­ing mis­con­duct among deputies to go unchecked in the jail’s vis­it­ing cen­ter.

The ver­dicts brought an end to a long, deeply f lawed jour­ney for Car­rillo through the jus­tice sys­tem.

Af­ter the beat­ing that left him with his nose bro­ken, bad bruises over his body and blood­ied from cuts on his face, Car­rillo, 27, was charged with as­sault­ing the deputies based on their fab­ri­cated claims. Deputies per­pet­u­ated the lies to in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors and later tes­ti­fied at Car­rillo’s pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, help­ing to con­vince a judge that the man should stand trial.

With­out ex­pla­na­tion, pros­e­cu­tors dropped the charges against Car­rillo shortly be­fore his trial was to have be­gun. The county later paid him $ 1.2 mil­lion to set­tle a civil law­suit.

Af­ter the Los An­ge­les County dis­trict at­tor­ney chose not to pur­sue charges against the deputies, pros­e­cu­tors from the U. S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice brought the case to a fed­eral grand jury, which in­dicted them in 2013.

All three were charged with un­rea­son­able force and fal­si­fy­ing records. Ayala and Gon­za­lez were also con­victed of con­spir­ing to de­prive Car­rillo of his civil rights.

“Gabriel Car­rillo is vin­di­cated,” said his at­tor­ney, Ron­ald Kaye. “This man was faced with los­ing his free­dom in prison on false charges. Now the ta­bles have turned and jus­tice f in­ally has pre­vailed.”

The pros­e­cu­tion’s case re­lied heav­ily on two other deputies who also faced charges for their roles in the beat­ing but struck deals with the gov­ern­ment that re­quired them to plead guilty to lesser charges and to tes­tify at trial.

Both men told jurors that Car­rillo had been hand­cuffed through­out the vi­o­lent en­counter, and they de­tailed how the group of deputies fol­lowed Gon­za­lez’s in­struc­tions to jus­tify the vi­o­lence by fram­ing Car­rillo.

Their tes­ti­mony was a coup for pros­e­cu­tors, who man­aged to shat­ter an un­spo­ken “code of si­lence” that Rhodes said in court for­bids law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to out other of­fi­cers for mis­con­duct.

“We were all part­ners,” one of the now for­mer deputies, Pan­tamitr Zunggeemoge, tes­ti­fied. “There’s a bond. And you don’t go against your part­ners.”

De­fense at­tor­neys por­trayed them as self- serv­ing liars who, as one lawyer said, were “just giv­ing the gov­ern­ment what they wanted to hear” in an at­tempt to avoid lengthy prison sen­tences.

“We’re ob­vi­ously sur­prised,” said Gon­za­lez’s at­tor­ney Joseph Avramhamy. “I’m not sure how the jury came to its ver­dict. There were a lot of holes in the pros­e­cu­tion’s case.”

Dur­ing the trial, Rhodes and another pros­e­cu­tor, Bran­don Fox, re­turned re­peat­edly to text mes­sages Gon­za­lez sent to a deputy who had been in­volved in the ar­rest of Car­rillo’s brother. The brother had been hos­pi­tal­ized for in­juries deputies inf licted dur­ing his ar­rest.

Gon­za­lez sent a photo of Car­rillo’s blood­ied, cut face and wrote, “Looks like we did a bet­ter job. Where’s my beer big homie.”

“Ha­haha,” the other deputy texted back.

Allen J. Schaben Los An­ge­les Times

GABRIEL CAR­RILLO, at cen­ter, lis­tens to at­tor­ney Ron­ald Kaye. A photo at right shows in­juries inf licted by deputies, who claimed he went on the at­tack.

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