Criminal Justice

FBI charge 18 sheriff's deputies in jail abuse probe

Updated: FBI agents charged 18 current or former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Monday in connection with an investigation of abuses in the county’s jails, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Deputies Fernando Luviano and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge were among those charged, the Los Angeles Times reports. They are alleged to have been part of a controversial force incident with Gabriel Carrillo, who says he was handcuffed and beaten while visiting his brother at the jail and subsequently charged with battery against the officers. Prosecutors abruptly dropped those charges.

Luviano and Zunggeemoge are named in an indictment (PDF) that accuses them along with deputies Sussie Ayala and Noel Womack of preparing false and misleading reports in an attempt to show that the use of force was justified in the Carrillo incident among others. Sgt. Eric Gonzalez, who supervised these deputies, is accused in the same indictment of reprimanding deputies for not using force in incidents in which visitors “supposedly ‘disrespected’ these deputy sheriffs.”

Earlier Monday, the Times reported that arrests were expected for as many as a dozen jail officials. Jail officials are also alleged to have held prisoner Anthony Brown—who had become an FBI informant—under a false name and moved him in the effort to thwart his communication with FBI agents, a source told the Los Angeles Times in a separate story. A separate indictment details charges against seven other sheriff’s officials, accusing them of obstructing this investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports. The indictment (PDF) names these individuals: Lt. Stephen Leavins; Sgts. Scott Craig and Maricella Long; Lt. Gregory Thompson; and Deputies Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo and James Sexton.

Sheriff’s office officials told the Los Angeles Times earlier Monday that they were protecting Brown from other deputies. In an earlier interview with the Times, Brown said FBI agents came to him in the jail and in court and he provided names of deputies involved in corruption and abuse.

Brown told the newspaper in an earlier interview that jail officials changed his name several times, interrogated him about the FBI’s investigation and asked if he would be testifying in that matter. The sheriff’s office denied the various allegations, the Los Angeles Times reported, and said the FBI could have had access to Brown by simply asking.

Deputy Richard Piquette was also indicted (PDF) on a firearms charge.

Last updated at 5:13 p.m. to note additional indictments.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.