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Men's Central Jail visitor beaten by deputies settles for $1.2 million

Visitor beaten at Men's Central Jail settles lawsuit against L.A. County for $1.18 million
Deputies involved in beating of Men's Central Jail visitor face federal excessive use of force charges

A man who was beaten by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies while visiting his brother at Men’s Central Jail will be paid almost $1.2 million to settle his civil rights lawsuit.

Attorneys for Gabriel Carrillo, 26, announced the settlement Thursday, which was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and finalized earlier this week.

According to the lawsuit, Carrillo was attacked on Feb. 26, 2011, after deputies found him carrying a cellphone in the waiting area, a violation of jail rules.

Deputies reported that after they handcuffed Carrillo and escorted him to a booking room, they released one of his hands for fingerprinting. Carrillo swung his elbow at a deputy, the deputies said, prompting a fight and an attempt to escape. A supervisor said he ordered the deputies to use force until Carrillo was restrained.

But Carrillo alleged in his lawsuit that both of his hands were handcuffed to a chair in the room and the attack was unprovoked. He said he was was beaten and doused with pepper spray until he blacked out.

Carrillo said he suffered a broken nose and facial paralysis, but has since fully recovered with no permanent damage.

"I felt this was the only right call that could have been made," Carrillo said at a news conference in Pasadena after the settlement was finalized. "The amount [of the settlement] speaks volumes as to the wrongdoing that was going on."

Prosecutors had charged Carrillo with battery, resisting deputies and escaping arrest based on the deputies' report. He had faced up to 14 years in prison, but the case was abruptly dropped a week before trial.

Ron Kaye, an attorney for Carrillo, said the criminal case turned when eyewitnesses in the waiting area came forward to assert that Carrillo did nothing wrong. Kaye said his client would petition for a certification of factual innocence, which the county would not oppose as part of the agreement.

After the FBI investigated Carrillo’s claims as part of a probe into the county’s jails, federal prosecutors returned charges of excessive use of force against the supervisor, Sgt. Eric Gonzalez, and four deputies: Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, Sussie Ayala, Fernando Luviano and Noel Womack.

In the indictment, Gonzalez is accused of fostering “an environment and atmosphere in the visiting area of [Men’s Central Jail] that encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law” and reprimanding deputies who didn’t follow his commands.

Although Carrillo is not named in the federal case, the indictment says a victim identified as “GC” suffered injuries because of “unreasonable force” on Feb. 26, 2011.

The indictment details four other cases of visitors at Men's Central Jail being detained with excessive force by the same deputies.

The sergeant and four deputies are currently awaiting federal trials.

Carrillo, who works as a forklift operator, said Thursday that he would use the $1.18-million settelement to buy a house for his wife and two infant daughters.

The county spent $47 million on lawsuits involving the sheriff’s department in 2013, nearly half of all litigation costs.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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