By Joel Rubin
June 25, 2015
Three Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were convicted Wednesday of beating a handcuffed man bloody and then lying to cover up the abuse.
A federal jury deliberated for only four hours before returning guilty verdicts against Deputies Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano and former Sgt. Eric Gonzalez, who supervised the incident and boasted about the assault in a text message to a colleague.
The trial, in which two other deputies testified about the coverup and a “code of silence” in law enforcement, was the first public airing of brutality charges to stem from a wide-ranging FBI probe into the county’s jails. Nine other deputies were previously convicted of other crimes, including obstructing the FBI’s investigation.
Rank-and-file officers face more charges of physical abuse in two upcoming trials, while last month former Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka, once the second-highest-ranking official in the department, and a captain were indicted on obstruction charges.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who was elected last year amid the jail abuse scandal, said in a statement: “When an employee engages in acts of dishonesty or mistreats members of our community, he or she acts contrary to our mission. This verdict — and the past acts of a few — should not be viewed as a reflection of the integrity, dedication and deep commitment to public service by the many members of this department.”
The weeklong trial centered on the February 2011 arrest of Gabriel Carrillo, who had come with his girlfriend and grandmother to visit his brother, who was an inmate in the Men’s Central Jail. He and his girlfriend were handcuffed and taken into custody after deputies found them carrying cellphones, which is against state law. Carrillo mouthed off repeatedly to the deputies.
From the outset, the case hinged on the question of whether Carrillo was handcuffed at the time of the beating. Prosecutors said he was shackled and had done nothing to justify the barrage of punches and pepper spray that deputies administered as he was pinned face-down on the floor.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, insisted that the deputies and Gonzalez were telling the truth when they wrote in reports that one of Carrillo’s hands had been uncuffed for fingerprinting and that he had attacked them with the loose restraints.
The jury’s foreman, Tony Tran, and a second juror said in interviews that photographs taken the day after the encounter showing dark red abrasions and swelling on both of Carrillo’s wrists were compelling pieces of evidence.
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