Five lawsuits allege civil rights abuses at West Valley Detention Center

Posted Feb. 16, 2015 @ 3:02 pm
Updated Feb 16, 2015 at 5:05 PM

A federal grand jury is investigating claims of deputy misconduct at West Valley Detention Center nearly a year after the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and FBI launched separate probes into possible inmate civil rights violations at the jail.

A joint status report filed in U.S. District Court this month revealed that a federal grand jury, along with federal and local authorities, is reviewing allegations that have suggested particular deputies acted as instigators of abuse while the jail’s top officials enabled them with a lack of oversight.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 25 — the fifth similar lawsuit filed since May against the jail, its commander Jeff Rose, several deputies and Sheriff John McMahon — lawyers for inmate Eric Smith, a jail food server, contend that deputies repeatedly stunned Smith with a Taser for no reason on multiple occasions and subjected him to psychological torture and sleep deprivation.

The suits have painted alleged misconduct at the jail as systemic, a claim that seeks to undermine McMahon’s insistence that problems are connected to an “isolated group of deputies.”

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