February 2, 2016
A federal jury found two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies guilty Tuesday of falsifying records about the beating of a jail inmate but deadlocked on whether the deputies used excessive force.
The deputies were acquitted of conspiring to violate the inmate’s civil rights.
The verdict was a mixed bag for federal authorities after a string of victories in cases that have focused on allegations of misconduct and abuse inside the nation’s largest jail system.
Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez were charged in U.S. District Court with violating the civil rights of inmate Bret Phillips by beating him and then lying about the February 2009 incident to cover it up.
Prosecutors argued during the eight-day trial that Phillips had done nothing to justify the assault. They tried to portray the deputies as angry and bent on punishing Phillips for acting out and said that Phillips posed no serious threat since his hands were shackled to a chain around his waist throughout the beating.
Defense lawyers presented a sharply different story, saying the deputies used necessary force to subdue Phillips after the inmate attempted to attack Aguiar.
The deputies acknowledged in internal department reports they wrote at the time that they repeatedly punched Phillips, struck him with a flashlight and pepper-sprayed him in the face. They said Phillips, now 44, had attempted to head-butt Aguiar and continued to struggle after being pinned on the ground.
After nearly two days of deliberations, however, jurors announced to Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell that they could not reach a decision on the question of whether the deputies had gone too far in their use of force.
In a brief interview after the verdicts, the jury forewoman said that 10 jurors were in favor of convicting the deputies on the excessive-force charge, but could not persuade the two remaining holdouts.
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