Claim Filed Against County : 2 Deputies Linked to 2nd Jail Beating

Times Staff Writer

Two San Diego County deputy sheriffs, involved in a controversial jail beating last year, allegedly participated in another assault in which an inmate, who had complained about jail conditions, suffered severe internal injuries, according to a claim filed against the county.

The incident occurred in September after Joseph E. Moore obtained the signatures of a dozen fellow inmates on a petition complaining about conditions in County Jail downtown.

Alleged Beating by 7

According to the claim, filed in November, Moore alleged that he was beaten by the two deputies, identified as R.K. Brown and Jon Ellis, as well as five others, and that he suffered injuries to his kidneys, head, back, face, torso, legs and arm.


Brown could not be reached for comment. A man identifying himself as Ellis did return a phone call from The Times, but he hung up shortly after the interview began.

Sgt. Bob Takeshta, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said he could not comment because the Moore case is now in litigation and because the U.S. attorney’s office is still investigating last year’s jail beating death of Albert M. Varela.

In interviews with The Times, four inmates said they saw deputies pull Moore, face down, out of a jail tank and drag him across the floor, with his eyes rolling, his mouth open and his tongue hanging on the ground. They said that even though Moore was handcuffed and subdued, the deputies still kicked and beat him as they dragged him along the floor.

“We thought he was dead,” said inmate Leon Morris.


That scenario is similar to the Varela case, which is one of two incidents still under review by federal authorities who recently decided not to bring charges against San Diego County deputies in 70 other alleged inmate assaults.

In October--a month after the Moore incident--the county district attorney sharply criticized deputies for also dragging Varela face down and unconscious across the floor after a January, 1988, fight in the same jail, where Varela was placed in a carotid restraint and later died at a local hospital.

Treatment Called Inhumane

“Dragging an inmate on his face is simply inconsistent with basic humane treatment, particularly after that inmate has been restrained and controlled,” the district attorney said at that time.

Moore’s attorney, Michael R. Marrinan, said he is concerned that the names of certain deputies “come up time and time again” in alleged inmate beatings.

“There are a percentage of the deputies in the jails who are out of control and who are excessively violent,” he said. “It may not be that all of the guys in the jail are bad, but there are a few bad ones and they need to be weeded out. The question that arises is whether the sheriff is doing an adequate job of weeding out the bad apples, the guys who are excessively violent.”

He also rebuked assertions that many inmates like Moore, a repeat offender and a convicted rapist, must be treated roughly by jail deputies if they are to maintain order and control in the overcrowded jail.

“Regardless of whether Joe is a good guy or a bad guy, these other witnesses saw what happened,” Marrinan said. “Even if Joe started this fight, what happened outside the cell, after Joe was no longer posing a problem and was handcuffed, is pretty outrageous.


“That’s exactly what happened with Varela. Why did Joe live and not Varela? I don’t know. Maybe he was just lucky.”

Other Deputies Named

Moore’s claim names five others, besides Brown and Ellis, who allegedly participated in the beating: Sgt. Ernest Lopez, and Deputies Roger Baggett, Joseph Spina, Michael Murray and Goyle (no first name available).

Four inmates said deputies Brown and Ellis are known among inmates for their use of physical force.

“Brown and Ellis are two of the deputies I refer to as Doberman pinschers,” said Yung Lee, an ex-convict who is back in jail on robbery charges. “They’re the worst of the crew. They always lead the charge. They’re the ones who provide the muscle.”

Moore, 42, has had his share of problems with the law.

Court records show that he has theft and drug charges dating back to 1967, and a conviction in a rape case in 1977. In 1987 he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, for which he drew four years in prison.

He has been described as a sociopath by assistant Dist. Atty. Hugh McManus, who prosecuted Moore in the 1977 rape case. McManus at that time told a judge that Moore constantly complained about jail conditions and refused to behave in the jail.


“The defendant has sent letters to everybody in Southern California,” McManus said at Moore’s sentencing in 1977. “He has driven the grand jury crazy, to the point where somebody finally even went down there to talk to him to finally resolve that, and about his various problems and how he is going to expose this and that.”

Put Together Petition

Last September, Moore again began complaining about conditions in the downtown jail. Upset about the quality of the food and lack of exercise and shower privileges, he said he put together a petition and persuaded a dozen inmates to sign the grievance.

“I sat down and wrote a letter to the health department,” he said. “Everybody in the tank signed it.”

He said a deputy sergeant came by his cell the next day and demanded to know who had organized the protest. When Moore’s name was revealed, he was ordered to roll up his belongings so that he could be transferred to another area of the jail.

Moore and other inmates said an argument ensued, with Moore refusing to gather his belongings despite orders from the jail staff. With Moore refusing to leave the tank, a group of seven deputies, including Brown and Ellis, were dispatched to the tank, according to the inmates. The inmates said some of the deputies wore riot gear, including clubs and helmets.

According to four inmate witnesses, Moore lifted a mattress to protect himself from the deputies, but during a lengthy struggle he was clubbed and kicked and finally handcuffed and dragged out of the tank.

Moore and other inmates said that as Moore was being dragged out, several deputies hit and kicked him. They said Brown hit him in the head with a club and kicked him in the rib cage. Neither Moore nor the other inmates could recall any blows thrown by Ellis.

Assault Called Cruel

They all described the assault as unusually cruel.

“I saw Brown pick Joe up and slam his body to the floor,” said Lee. “I used to lift bags of beans for a living, and I used to sling those bags the same way.”

Moore said that after the alleged assault, he was kept in an isolation cell, and that later that night he began urinating blood. He said he later was taken to a hospital, and diagnosed with a kidney injury. He said hospital officials advised the jail to put him in a medical ward.

But Moore said he was instead placed in a regular tank, where he remained for about a month until the bleeding became so bad that he was treated for seven days at a local hospital.

Hospital records obtained by Marrinan show that Moore did suffer several bruises and swollen spots on the head, and that he was passing blood in his urine.

Moore said he was returned to the jail, and still has not been sent to a medical ward. But a letter in January to Marrinan from Robert W. Jones, the jail administrator for medical services, denied that Moore was not being provided adequate medical attention.

“He is not experiencing any life-threatening condition at this time,” the letter said.