The American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Lee Baca for what it described as “extraordinary brutality” by deputies against inmates in LA County jails.
“We file suit because for years, violence by deputies against detainees, most of whom are still awaiting trial and have to be presumed innocent, has been brutal and it has been rampant,” said Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Alex Rosas and Jonathan Goodwin, two county jail inmates. The suit states that Rosas and Goodwin were “beaten and threatened with violence by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department” and also witnessed deputies beating other inmates.
ACLU claims these are typical cases that are a part of a pattern and practice in the LASD that has gone unpunished for several years.
“Despite Sheriff Baca’s actual knowledge of this pattern of violence and cover-up, he has failed over a period of many years to take reasonable measures to halt the abuses,” reads the lawsuit.
Baca, who has been sheriff since 1998, did not immediately respond to the lawsuit. However, in a past interview he admitted that some deputies have mistreated prisoners in county jails.
The suit alleges that dozens of inmates have been subjected to “grossly excessive force,” which has included “slamming inmates’ heads into walls, punching them in the face with fists, kicking them multiple times with boots, and shooting them multiple times with tasers.” The force reportedly resulted in serious injuries to inmates.
There is mention of deputies belonging to gangs inside the jails in the lawsuit as well, one being the “3000 Boys” at Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Members of these gangs would “earn their ink” by breaking inmates’ bones, it goes on to say.
Deputy-on-inmate abuse first garnered attention in September when the ACLU released a report documenting inmate complaints. Included in the report were testimonies from civilian witnesses. Soon after, the FBI launched an investigation into the alleged brutality.