Former Chino guards guilty
Three former correctional officers at the state prison in Chino were convicted Monday of federal civil rights and conspiracy charges growing from an incident in which shackled inmates were thrown to the ground.
Robert McGowan, 38, of Apple Valley was convicted of assaulting two inmates. He and two of his former colleagues, Thomas Ramos, 51, and Hector Flores, 39, were convicted of conspiring to cover up the incident.
The case stemmed from a fight at the prison in 2002 involving inmates and officers. Once the melee was controlled, several prisoners were shackled, placed in a van and sent to another unit of the prison, according to a report from the U.S. attorney’s office. When the van arrived, McGowan yanked two prisoners from the vehicle and let them fall to the ground head first. Both suffered minor injuries.
Ramos, who was McGowan’s superior, wrote a report stating that one of the inmates slipped and fell, though he knew McGowan had thrown the inmate to the ground.
Flores made “a series of conflicting statements about his role and the role of others in the incident” to the grand jury and investigators, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.
“He also participated in conversations after the incident in which a number of these people got together essentially to get their stories straight,” Mrozek said.
McGowan faces up to 25 years in prison. Ramos and Flores face up to five years each. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 14.
The convictions mark another black eye for the turbulent Inland Empire prison, one of the oldest in the state. With 6,900 inmates, the California Institution for Men currently is operating at more than double its intended capacity, and inmate fights have triggered periodic lockdowns.
In January 2005, Officer Manuel Gonzalez, 43, was stabbed to death by an inmate. He was the first state prison officer to be killed by an inmate in nearly 20 years.
Last year, Shayne A. Ziska, a Chino prison guard, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to funnel drugs to members of the Nazi Low Riders prison gang, as well as allowing the gang to attack other inmates.