LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal jury Wednesday convicted three L.A. County sheriff’s deputies of beating and pepper-spraying a jail visitor after handcuffing him, and lying about it.
The L.A. Sheriff’s Office has been under federal scrutiny for at least 4 years for the way it runs the Men’s Central Jail. Eighteen deputies were charged with civil rights abuses, and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and retired sheriff’s Capt. William “Tom” Carey were indicted on conspiracy charges in May, fueling speculation on whether longtime Sheriff Lee Baca, who resigned in January 2014, will be next.
With the Wednesday convictions, 14 current or former L.A. sheriff’s employees have been convicted of federal charges stemming from the FBI investigation.
But this is apparently the first time jail deputies were convicted of beating a jail visitor, though two others pleaded guilty in the incident.
The jury convicted deputies Fernando Luviano and Sussie Ayala and Sgt. Eric Gonzalez of violating the visitor’s civil rights by beating him, and falsifying reports about it. Ayala and Gonzalez also were convicted of conspiring to violate the victim’s civil rights by using unreasonable force.
Deputies Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and Noel Womack, who were accused in the same 2103 indictment, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentence.
Deputies beat the victim on Feb. 26, 2011, when he went with his girlfriend to visit her brother in the jail. Both visitors had cell phones, which are prohibited in the jail.
Nor was it permitted for deputies to take the man in handcuffs into a break room, and beat and pepper spray him, but that’s what they did. He was taken to a hospital.
Sgt. Gonzalez told Zunggeemoge to write a false report, stating that the victim had elbowed him before the beating. Other defendants wrote false reports that the man tried to escape from the break room.
Ayala and Gonzalez face up to 40 years in federal prison and Luviano up to 30 years at their Nov. 2 sentencing.
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