By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 12/22/15 – 1:14 PM PST |
Two more lawsuits totaling 21 plaintiffs alleging systematic abuse at the hands of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga have been filed in federal court in Riverside.
Victorville attorneys Stanley Hodge, Jim Terrell and Sharon Brunner filed the lawsuits on Dec. 10. One lawsuit names inmate David Smith, charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 execution-style slayings of a teenage couple in an abandoned Air Force bunker near Barstow, as the sole plaintiff. The other lawsuit lists 20 inmates as plaintiffs.
Both lawsuits name more than 30 defendants and allege a pattern of abuse by deputies and denial of requested grievance forms to report the alleged abuse, which was met by threats.
Among the alleged abuses include Taser gun torture, sexual battery, denial of medical care.
The latest lawsuits are the third and fourth filed by the trio of High Desert attorneys since the scandal at the jail erupted in March 2014, prompting investigations by the FBI, sheriff’s internal affairs and the impaneling of a federal grand jury in February. The FBI investigation remains pending, and more than a half dozen deputies who worked at the jail have since been fired, including rookie deputies Brock Teyechea, Andrew Cruz and Nicholas Oakley, and deputies Robert Escamilla, Russell Kopasz, Robert Morris and Eric Smale, sheriff’s officials said.
Attorney Jim Terrell said he is certain there will be an indictment, and his clients continue being interviewed by FBI agents or subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. One former inmate was flown to California from Florida to testify before the grand jury, Terrell said.
“We’re all anticipating them indicting several deputies,” Terrell said. “We don’t know how high it’s going to go up, but we absolutely believe that without any doubt.”
While the civil litigation remains suspended, per agreement by the defense counsel, during the FBI investigation, Terrell said the stay should be lifted by the end of the month. If not, Terrell said he, Hodge and Brunner will oppose it.
In addition to the four lawsuits filed by Terrell, Brunner and Hodge, three similar lawsuits were filed by different attorneys on behalf of former West Valley inmates between June 2014 and January 2015.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said the Sheriff’s Department has not yet been served with the most recent lawsuits and declined to comment.
Smith alleges in his lawsuit that he was first unjustly stunned with a Taser gun by a deputy “Macias,” whose first name has yet to be ascertained, in late 2009, about two years after he was arrested. A pattern of Taser gun abuse ensued. Deputy Robert Escamilla, one of several deputies who no longer works for the Sheriff’s Department, stunned Smith more than 70 times in the legs, back and shoulders with his Taser gun without cause, according to the lawsuit.
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