West Valley Detention Center

West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 01/13/16 – 7:53 PM PST |

Attorneys on both sides of federal lawsuits alleging years of inmate abuse by deputies at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga are battling over whether the litigation should remain suspended while a criminal investigation is underway.

The lawsuits were filed shortly after the announcement in April 2014 by the FBI and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department that they were launching criminal and administrative investigations into claims that deputies routinely tortured inmates at the jail. The allegations include Taser gun torture, unprovoked beatings, systematic denial of grievance forms and sodomy related to unorthodox pat-down searches.

The criminal probe and grand jury proceedings continue. Seven civil lawsuits have been filed to date, and more than a half-dozen deputies accused of misconduct are no longer with the Sheriff’s Department; among them: Brock Teyechea, Andrew Cruz, Nicholas Oakley, Robert Escamilla, Russell Kopasz, Robert Morris and Eric Smale, sheriff’s officials said.

Victorville attorneys Stanley Hodge, Jim Terrell and Sharon Brunner, who represent 31 plaintiffs in four of the lawsuits, are pushing to lift a nine-month stay — or temporary halt — in the civil proceedings so their cases can proceed to trial.

But attorneys for three of the defendants, Sheriff John McMahon, West Valley Cmdr. Jeff Rose and the county of San Bernardino, want the stay to be extended through March 31, according to court documents posted online.

Attorneys for the defendants argue their clients may be forced to plead the Fifth Amendment should they be called to testify in the civil case, before the grand jury decides whether to indict.

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