Federal prosecutors yesterday announced federal charges in Los Angeles against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies, who were accused of beating jail visitors and inmates. They also are accused of attempting to intimidate an agent from the FBI and several other crimes.
Federal prosecutors state that they uncovered a great deal of illegal conduct by the deputies and supervisors. It went beyond, prosecutors say, mistreating inmates. Some of them actually tried to stop an FBI investigation into some of the misconduct that was going on at the jail.
These actions by federal authorities are the biggest arrests of LA sheriff’s employees in more than 20 years. It represents a serious blow to a police department that has been accused in recent years of racial profiling, hiring officers with criminal backgrounds, cronyism and corruption.
One of the US attorneys on the case stated that the incidents did not occur separately or in a vacuum. The behavior has been institutionalized in the LA sheriff’s office, and some of the officials in the department think they are above the law.
The federal indictments include charges involving two assaults on inmates, and also three assaults on people who visited the jail. The charges also include claims that the deputies filed fake reports to justify the use of force, and they also conducted illegal searches and arrests of people visiting the jail.
In one case, a consul official from Austria tried to visit an inmate from Austria. He was arrested and handcuffed although he had done no crime and would have been immune from any prosecution.
Sheriff Lee Baca stated this week in LA at a news conference that he had great respect for the federal authorities investigating the department and he was saddened by the allegations. He stated that no one is above the law.
However, he did defend the agency, saying 99% or more of his employees are good workers.
Baca’s statement came as many of his deputies were being arraigned at the courthouse in LA. Sixteen of them showed up in court, and some of them were handcuffed. Some of them pleaded not guilty, while others will give their pleas later. All of them were released on bond.
Thirteen deputies were charged Monday, along with three sergeants and two lieutanants. Some of the other charges were conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements to authorities and violating civil rights.
These charges mark the biggest scandal in the Sheriff’s department in 25 years. In the late 1980s, federal authorities accused deputies in a drug team of stealing drugs and money from drug traffickers. That investigation concluded with two dozen deputies being convicted.