A jury on Wednesday acquitted a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy of federal charges that he helped cover up the beating of a visitor to a county jail, but the panel deadlocked over whether the lawman lied to investigators about the incident.
The verdict marks a rare loss for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, which has won a string of abuse and obstruction cases against deputies and higher-ranking sheriff’s officials following an FBI investigation into county jails.
Byron Dredd, 33, faced two counts of wrongdoing that arose from allegations he had conspired with the deputies involved in the beating to fabricate reports that placed the blame on the victim. A third charge indicated he lied about the incident to FBI agents during an interview. Dredd himself was not accused of taking part in the beating.
After deliberating for three days, the jury found Dredd not guilty of the conspiracy charge and of writing a false report. However, jurors were deadlocked on the lying allegation.
U.S. District Judge George King gave prosecutors in the case until Monday to decide whether they would retry Dredd on the undecided charge.
The accusations against Dredd arise from the February 2011 beating of Gabriel Carrillo, who had come with his then-girlfriend and grandmother to visit his brother, an inmate in the county’s main jail facility.
Carrillo and his girlfriend were handcuffed and taken into custody after deputies said they found them carrying cellphones, which is against state law. After Carrillo reportedly mouthed off repeatedly to the deputies in a secluded room, he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed in the face.
After the beating, which left Carrillo bloody and bruised, the deputies and their supervisor claimed in reports that when one of Carrillo’s hands was uncuffed for fingerprinting, he attacked deputies and tried to escape.
Based on those reports, Carrillo was brought up on criminal charges. After Carrillo’s attorney brought to light photographs showing injuries to both of Carrillo’s wrists, corroborating his assertion that he was handcuffed during the beating, prosecutors from the county district attorney’s office dropped the charges.
In June, two deputies, Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano, along with Eric Gonzalez, their supervisor at the jail visitor center, were convicted of the beating and cover-up.
Dredd claimed to have seen parts of the incident through a small window that looked into the room from a hallway.
At his trial last week, prosecutors zeroed in on the report Dredd submitted about the incident, showing jurors how it mirrored the reports from the other deputies.
“What actually happened and what the defendant claims he saw … are two completely different things,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Saurish Appleby-Bhattacharjee said in his opening statement to jurors.
But Dredd’s attorney worked to portray the deputy as a victim himself, saying he had caught only glimpses of the beating through the window. Gonzalez, the sergeant, then browbeat the young and impressionable Dredd into believing the beating occurred as he claimed, attorney Nina Marino argued.
“Byron Dredd is not a liar,” Marino told jurors. “He made a mistake.”
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