Charges were filed yesterday that involve approximately 17 current and 2 former deputies who have been accused of beating inmates and visitors, falsifying reports, as well as obstructing justice, conspiracy and corruption. The criminal complaint and grand jury indictments contain, among other charges against the deputies, allegations that records were falsified, visitors to and inmates at the L.A. County Jail were unlawfully detained and excessive force was imposed. One of those charged was a Lieutenant who oversaw the safe jails program and another Lieutenant was responsible for investigating allegations of crimes committed by sheriff’s personnel. Three deputies were also accused of mortgage fraud.
The U.S. Attorney said “These incidents…. demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized [and] shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law.”
County Sheriff Lee Baca said he has made improvements to the Men’s Central Jail, such as a newly hired head of custody, reorganizing the command staff, and to create a database to track inmate complaints.
The fact remains that while there have been enhancements and changes to the L.A. County jails, and they have been under scrutiny for brutality and corruption, the ongoing investigations seem to have taken far too long to rise to the level for charges to be ultimately filed.
Commentary by Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer:
“A previous criminal probe involving officials in three school districts in San Diego County has expanded to now include 15 who were indicted for 232 felony and misdemeanor charges related to bribery and conspiracy in an ongoing ‘pay for play’ corruption case in connection with construction contracts entered into by district officials was reported by the UT News on January 7, 2013. The case involves campaign contributions, tickets to plays and sporting events as well as lavish meals, etc. in exchange for multi-million dollar school construction bond contracts.
At least one defense counsel was reported to be discussing a severance of the multiple cases so all of the defendants are not prosecuted together. The public’s interest in receiving information regarding the criminal case and the defendants’ right to due process and to have a trial free of adverse publicity has to be balanced by the court, with such a claim likely to be made by at least one of the defense counsel. The court will also have to manage this complex case with over a dozen defense counsel seeking to make a series of arguments and motions on behalf of their respective clients. Also, this case will no doubt proceed over many months, and here will be some defendants who will enter guilty or nolo contender pleas (plea in which one declines to admit or dispute the charges); it is even possible immunity may be given by the prosecution to some of the offenders if they have not done so already in helping to build their case. In spite of all of the allegations and innuendos, one always needs to be cognizant of the fact a person must be deemed innocent until proven otherwise.”
Since 2004, over 150 Border Patrol agents have been charged with some form of corruption, including taking bribes and cooperating with human trafficking groups.
Raul and Fidel Villarreal, who are both former Border Patrol agents, will both be sentenced today for running a smuggling operation.
The operation, which was run along the international border in San Diego, was lucrative for the brothers. The prosecution argued that they smuggled thousands of people across the border in exchange for $10,000 per group of ten people. Officers estimate that they earned between $1 and $2.5 million.
The UT news did not report any mitigation argued by defense counsel, which is an essential ingredient and a key component beyond the defense and offense one argues on behalf of a client who has been charged with and/or convicted of a crime. The reader is left to ask whether this aspect of the presentation at sentencing was not emphasized at all or only minimally.