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Gay Inmates Kept in Court Closets, Man Says

(CN) - A gay Los Angeles County jail inmate says he was held in a mop closet with no toilet for his "own protection" and called a "fucking faggot" by a deputy who also assaulted him when he asked for a chair.

Plaintiff Anthony Oliver adds in his federal civil rights complaint filed Dec. 17 that straight inmates are placed in cells with toilets, televisions, phones and newspapers.

According to Oliver's complaint, the LA County jails and court lock-ups house gay, bisexual and transgender inmates, called "K6G," in separate facilities. Oliver is gay, disabled and wears a back brace.

After arresting Oliver in March 2015, deputies took him to the Metro traffic courthouse and placed in a room the size of a mop closet, the complaint says.

"In the Metro traffic courthouse, 'K6G' inmates are treated far worse than that of general population," Oliver says in his complaint. "At the time plaintiff was taken to court in 2015, plaintiff was housed, like other GBT inmates, in a small room with one stool, the size of a mop closet, awaiting his court appearance. The room was formerly an attorney-client meeting room with only one stool, and was converted for use by the LA County Sheriffs Department for GBT inmates at the time of the incident.

"Plaintiff is informed and believes that in some of the court lock-ups in the Los Angeles County Superior Courts, 'K6G' inmates are kept, instead of cells, in 'utility rooms' or 'mop closets' that are separate from the holding cells that are designed to accommodate non-GBT inmates awaiting court appearances," Oliver's complaint continues.

The man says the holding tanks for straight arrestees have toilets, TVs, telephones and newspapers to keep them occupied while waiting for their court appearance, and are larger than the mop closets used for gay detainees.

"There is no reason for housing 'K6G' inmates in non-cell facilities, as opposed to having a segregated cell or holding tank where they can be housed awaiting court," Oliver says in his complaint.

"Among other things, 'K6G' inmates endure substantially worse conditions of confinement simply because they are GBT persons and members of the gay community, or are transgender and have a different sexual identity," he continues. "The conditions and treatment the 'K6G' inmates are subjected to in the court lock-ups should not be tolerated. GBT inmates are being discriminated against intentionally based on their status as a result of this custody arrangement.

"Although the county and department owe a duty to protect GBT inmates from harm by providing protection, that does not allow GBT persons to be subjected to worse conditions of incarceration," according to the complaint.

Besides being placed in the mop closet, Oliver also says he was roughed up by one of the guards while waiting to make his court appearance.

Oliver says he was recovering from back surgery and in a back brace when he was arrested and placed in the holding area with two other men. There was only one stool, so Oliver requested a chair from guards. He says one guard called him a "fucking faggot" before lifting him off the ground, slamming him against the wall and placing him back in the cell.

Oliver says other deputies saw the assault and did nothing.

When he complained to the deputies' supervisor, he was threatened and told not to report the assault, according to the complaint.

Oliver says the assault caused further damage to his back that requires surgery.

The sheriff's department knows about the "brutal, unconstitutional practices" deputies inflict on inmates at detention facilities but has failed to curb the problem, the complaint says.

The county also treats "GBT people much different than any other inmates in violation of their equal protection rights under the law," according to the complaint.

Besides the county, Oliver's suit also names Sheriff Jim McDonnell; Court Services Bureau commander Kevin Goran; watch commander Jeff Adams; and deputies Isaias Marin, Jr, Don Manumaleuna, Michael Kassabian, Nancy Aleman, Gerald Denson, Steven Kale and R. Alvarez as defendants.

The lawsuit includes claims for civil rights violations, supervisorial liability, an Americans with Disabilities Act claim and assault and battery. Oliver seeks general, compensatory and statutory damages, and punitive damages against the individual defendants.

He is represented by David McLane of Kaye, McLane, Bednarski, & Litt in Pasadena, California.

In 2014, McLane and the American Civil Liberties Union represented 15 gay, bisexual and transgender inmates at a San Bernardino County jail, in a class action claiming the county routinely subjected GBT inmates to harsh treatment.

David Sommers, director of Countywide Communications Chief Executive Office for Los Angeles County said he could not comment on pending litigation.

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