San Bernardino County Sheriff

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 – 01:00 p.m.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney has charged three of ten suspended sheriff’s deputies for their involvement in the televised beating of a High Desert man.

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos announced the charges at a presser held at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Deputies Nicholas Downey, Michel Phelps and Charles Foster were each charged with a single count of Penal Code section 149,  assault under color of authority.

Pusok lawyer James Terrell, at a 12:30 p.m. press conference, said at least eight deputies should have been charged.

The U.S. Justice Department, which launched a criminal civil rights investigation, says their investigation remains ongoing.

However, a point that needs clarification is that, while Ramos claims the charged deputies can receive sentences of 10 months to 3 years, Penal Code Sections 149 and 1170 (h) read as follows:

Penal Code – PEN

PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 – 680]

  ( Part 1 enacted 1872. )

 

TITLE 7. OF CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC JUSTICE [92 – 186.34]

  ( Title 7 enacted 1872. )

 

CHAPTER 7. Other Offenses Against Public Justice [142 – 181]

  ( Chapter 7 enacted 1872. )

149.  

Every public officer who, under color of authority, without lawful necessity, assaults or beats any person, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 15, Sec. 263. Effective April 4, 2011. Operative October 1, 2011, by Sec. 636 of Ch. 15, as amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 39, Sec. 68.)

Penal Code – PEN

PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 – 680]

( Part 1 enacted 1872. )

TITLE 7. OF CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC JUSTICE [92 – 186.34]

( Title 7 enacted 1872. )

CHAPTER 7. Other Offenses Against Public Justice [142 – 181]

( Chapter 7 enacted 1872. )

1170.

(h) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.

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The section in legal terms is what is known as a “wobbler”. The term means the count, in the end, may be either a felony or misdemeanor.