July 07, 2011

No criminal charges in brawl by L.A. County sheriff's deputies

Prosecutors have declined to file criminal charges against a group of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies accused of assaulting three fellow deputies at a Christmas party last year.

The violence that broke out at a department party in Montebello drew widespread attention after those involved were described as being part of an aggressive deputies’ clique at Men's Central Jail known to throw gang-like hand signs.

According to a memo from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, charges were not filed against eight deputies in part because one of them who was alleging he was assaulted admitted he "struck the first blow," which would "certainly raise the defense of self-defense."

Prosecutors also found the statements of a female deputy who alleged she was punched in the chin to be unreliable. She reported being hit, according to the memo, 10 days after the incident, and was apparently inconsistent about who she believed struck her.

"These revelations cast doubt on the reliability of her statements," the memo reads. "Descriptions of her demeanor and behavior by several witnesses cause further concern regarding her reliability."

The deputies described as the aggressors worked on the third floor of Men's Central Jail, which had the highest number of use-of-force incidents compared to any other floor during a recent years-long span. In March, the department moved to fire six deputies in what was called one of the largest terminations in connection with a single incident in Sheriff's Department history.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the district attorney's decision not to file charges does not affect the department's ongoing internal investigation. "We have now expanded the investigation. We are looking at other things that are connected," he said, declining to elaborate.

The sheriff's internal criminal investigation, which was used by prosecutors in making the decision on whether to file charges, included more than 150 interviews. One of the deputies suspected of assault is quoted in the prosecutor's memo portraying one of the deputies who alleged assault as the aggressor.

According to Deputy Hernan Delgado, who is quoted in the prosecutors' memo, that deputy approached the group and asked to speak to them away from the command staff. "I run visiting," he said, referring to a part of the jail, according to Hernan. "I'm the shot caller."

Robert Faturechi - July 5, 2011



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