Nearly twenty former and current LA County Sheriff's Department officials were charged on Monday, in connection with allegations of of abuse and misconduct inside the county's jails.
The eighteen federal indictments were delivered as the result of a year-long FBI investigation into complaints of beatings and unlawful detainment in Los Angeles jails, as well as accusations that the Sheriff's Department conspired to "obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men's Central Jail," reports the Los Angeles Times.
As the charges have been revealed, what kind of allegations do the sheriff's officials face?
Alleged Beatings of Visitors and Inmates
According to a U.S. Attorney's Office press release, 16 of the 18 accused deputy sheriffs were arrested on Monday before their charges were revealed. The 18 defendants are part of five different federal criminal cases, with allegations of civil rights violations ranging from excessive force, to unlawful arrests.
One case alleges that former Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASL) Sgt. Eric Gonzalez "encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law," when he oversaw the Men's Central Jail. One victim was permanently disabled after he suffered a broken arm and dislocated shoulder. In another case, two deputies at the Twin Towers Correctional facility allegedly beat and seriously injured an inmate, then used lower level deputies to file reports and bury the incident.
These types of gross cases alleging abuse and misconduct by LASD officers is the reason why federal criminal charges for civil rights violations exist. The charges released on Monday are similar to those filed in the Rodney King case over two decades ago.
Grand Jury Investigation and Seal
These charges include allegations of civil rights violations stretching back several years, so why is this the first the public is hearing of this misconduct?
For many ongoing federal investigations, a grand jury is convened to hear evidence and examine witnesses to determine if there is probable cause to charge a suspect with a crime. Especially in cases of suspected corruption, grand jury indictments are often kept under court seal -- making them inaccessible to the public until they are unsealed.
The indictments of abusing inmates and civilians' constitutional rights were unsealed and made public on Monday, leaving 18 LASD officials to look forward to federal criminal prosecution. And many of the accused may discover, even if they plead guilty, how harsh and unyielding the criminal justice system can be.
- 18 Charged in Inquiry Into Los Angeles Sheriff's Office (The New York Times)
- Rodney King Autopsy Underway After Drowning (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Zimmerman Not Guilty; Legal Battles Continue (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Prisoners' Rights (FindLaw)