Andre Birotte

Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, announces that 18 current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials have been indicted in five separate criminal cases in connection with a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct inside the county’s jails. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / December 9, 2013)

By Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard
December 9, 2013, 1:40 p.m.

Eighteen current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials have been indicted in five separate criminal cases in connection with a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct inside L.A. County jails.

The four grand jury indictments unsealed Monday and one criminal complaint allege that deputies beat jail inmates and visitors without justification, unjustly detained people and conspired to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.

Sixteen of the defendants were arrested Monday and are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court.

“Our investigation also found that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum — in fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized,” the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Andre Birotte Jr., said in a statement.

“The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of cooperating with the federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that light would not shine on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights.”

Charges in the indictments range from conspiracy and obstruction of justice to improperly arresting and searching visitors to the jails.

In one of the cases, deputies allegedly improperly arrested and searched the consul general of Austria and her husband during a visit to an inmate who was an Austrian national.

One of the indictments details three separate incidents in which prosecutors alleged that a sheriff’s sergeant encouraged deputies he supervised at the visiting area of Men’s Central Jail to use excessive force and unlawful arrests of visitors.

Visitors were taken to a deputy break room, which could not be seen by the public, and beaten by sheriff’s officials, the indictment said. One visitor had his arm fractured.

In June 2011, the Austrian consul general’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to the indictment.

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