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L.A. Sheriff’s indictments: Austrian diplomat improperly arrested

An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.

The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national.  

The four grand jury indictments unsealed Monday and one criminal complaint allege that deputies beat jail inmates and visitors without justification, unjustly detained people and conspired to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.  

The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.

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When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.

The indictment accused Sgt. Eric Gonzalez, the supervisor of deputies working in the visiting center, of reprimanding deputies for not using force against visitors who had “supposedly ‘disrespected’ these deputy sheriffs through the visitors’ words or conduct.”

The indictment names Deputies Sussie Ayala, Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and Noel Womack as preparing false and misleading reports in an attempt to show that the use of force was justified.

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Although the indictment does not identify alleged victims by name, one incident matches the Feb. 26, 2011, date on which Gabriel Carrillo was arrested while trying to visit his brother in the jail. 

Carrillo accused deputies of beating him while he was handcuffed. After the incident, he was initially charged with battery against the deputies, but prosecutors abruptly dropped the case, telling a judge they were awaiting more reports from the Sheriff’s Department.

Carrillo said Monday that the indictments mean “justice is being served.” He said the odds were unfairly stacked against him after the incident because it was his word against several deputies’.

“I feel like now people are starting to believe the cops aren’t always telling the truth,” he said. “Now it’s showing, don’t just take their word because they have a badge. Look at the facts.”

Gonzalez, Ayala, Zunggeemoge and Womack were accused in the indictment of violating the civil rights of an inmate identified as G.C. by assaulting him Feb. 26, 2011. Also charged was Deputy Fernando Luviano.

A separate indictment details charges against seven other sheriff’s officials accused of conspiracy, obstruction and giving false statements as part of the FBI’s long-running investigation into jail misconduct.

The document shows that federal authorities allege the officials hampered the federal probe after the Sheriff’s Department discovered that an inmate was working as a federal informant.

The officials moved the inmate -- identified only as AB in the indictment -- and changed his name, even altering the department’s internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, according to the indictment.

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In addition, the indictment says, sheriff’s officials confronted one of the lead FBI agents outside her home and falsely claimed they were in the process of obtaining a warrant for her arrest. 

The actions were taken despite a federal judge’s order that the informant appear before a federal grand jury as part of the FBI’s investigation, the indictment alleges. The Sheriff’s Department was served with the judge’s order Aug. 25, 2011.

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robert.faturechi@latimes.comjack.leonard@latimes.com


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