Los Angeles County Sheriff

Victoria Kim
June 3, 2014

The deputy described beating inmates unprovoked, slapping them, shooting them with a Taser gun and aggressively searching them to pick a fight — something he learned “on the job.” He would huddle with other jail guards to get their stories straight and write up reports with bogus scenarios justifying the brutality. If the inmate had no visible injuries, he wouldn’t report the use of force, period.

He did all this with impunity, former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Michel testified Tuesday, knowing that even if inmates reported the abuse it “wouldn’t go anywhere.” If they were to put it in writing and drop it in a complaint box, it was his fellow deputies who opened that box too.

Michel, 40, took the stand at the obstruction of justice trial of six sheriff’s officials accused of impeding a federal civil rights investigation into allegations of excessive force at L.A. County jails. His decision to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate in exchange for a bribe in August 2011 — an undercover FBI operation, unbeknownst to Michel — led to the Sheriff’s Department finding out about the federal investigation and, prosecutors say, set into motion a conspiracy to frustrate the inquiry. None of the defendants on trial — two lieutenants, two sergeants and two deputies — is accused of civil rights violations or excessive force.

Michel, the first sheriff’s deputy to be charged in the wide-reaching, ongoing investigation, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2012 to a count of bribery and agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors. He has not been charged with crimes relating to his admitted uses of excessive force.

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