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L.A. County sheriff’s deputy acquitted of felony assaults, convicted of misdemeanors

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.
(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

A jury Friday acquitted an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy of a series of felonies in the beatings of inmates, but convicted him on three misdemeanor counts of simple assault.

Prosecutors accused Jermaine Jackson of beating inmates in the Compton courthouse lockup and Twin Towers jail and said he later lied on reports about the incidents. He was charged with three counts each of assault by means likely to produce greatly bodily injury, assault by a public officer and filing a false report.

Jurors deadlocked on one of the counts of assault under the color of authority and will return Monday to continue deliberating.

During opening statements in the trial, as Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Marie Wise said Jackson ruled the jail “with an iron first,” Jackson shook his head and sighed.

Wise told the jurors that Jackson, 38, got away with the abuse because the inmates’ claims were often overlooked in an era before the scope of abuse within L.A. County jails was revealed. Although his arrest stemmed from an internal sheriff’s investigation, it came amid an FBI probe into misconduct within the jail system.

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This month, a federal jury convicted former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, and in February former Sheriff Lee Baca admitted to lying to federal investigators.

The criminal case against Jackson dates back to New Year’s Eve of 2009, when inmate Cesar Campana was housed in the Compton courthouse lockup.

Wise said Jackson yanked the inmate by his shirt and slammed him against the ground before repeatedly punching him and then kicking him in the head. A juror gasped when Wise projected an image of Campana’s swollen forehead bearing a red X-like figure. The pattern, Wise said, matched the shoelaces on Jackson’s boot.

The second incident involving Jackson happened inside Twin Towers jail on Christmas Day in 2010, after an unwarranted search quickly escalated into violence. Wise said Jackson and other deputies made up a lie to cover their tracks.

On their reports, the deputies wrote that an inmate, Derek Griscavage, had been searched because he was passing contraband. That wasn’t true, Wise said, adding that Jackson punched Griscavage in the temple so hard that he passed out.

Two other employees who worked at Twin Towers – Jayson Ellis and Karin Cring – were also charged in the Christmas Day incident. Prosecutors said Ellis, 28, a custody assistant, assaulted Griscavage, and Cring, 33, a deputy who is no longer with the department, lied on a report in false support of Jackson.

Prosecutors say the jail staff concocted a story that Griscavage had passed contraband to justify the unwarranted search, which ultimately led to the assault.

Since Cring agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution and against Jackson, Wise told jurors that the D.A.'s office agreed to reduce her charge to a misdemeanor. Ellis pleaded guilty last year to one count of assault.

Jackson, who was also charged with assaulting inmate Jonathan Murray in 2011, was convicted of simple assault in the beatings of Campana and Griscavage. The assault under the color of authority count, which the jury is still considering, stems from the beating of Campana.

Wise and Jackson’s attorneys --Vicki Podberesky and Richard G. Hirsch -- declined to comment, as the jury is still considering one count.

For more news from the Los Angeles County criminal courts, follow @marisagerber

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