$210,000 in damages awarded in suit alleging inmate abuse
A federal jury awarded $210,000 in punitive damages Tuesday to five inmates who claimed in a lawsuit they were beaten by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.
Five deputies who were supervising other officers during the incident at Men’s Central Jail were ordered to pay the damages.
The beatings were in retaliation for the August 2008 death of Deputy Juan Escalante, who was shot by gang members outside his parents’ home in Cypress Park, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of five inmates in U.S. District Court.
The jury awarded $740,000 last week to the five inmates who filed the case.
Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, said Tuesday the department stands behind its deputies. He said the department will “examine all legal remedies,” including an appeal or post-trial motions.
David Lawrence, the attorney for most of the deputies, had argued that the use of force was within policy.
The five deputies, including a 35-year veteran who retired in 2012, were ordered to pay between $15,000 and $75,000 each to the inmates.
The beatings occurred when deputies tried to remove the inmates from their cells. The inmates refused to come out and the deputies had to forcibly remove them, they said.
“These were the supervisors who orchestrated the extraction, and essentially monitored the excessive force that was being committed,” said Ron Kaye, the lawyer for the five inmates.
“I think the jurors were very focused on the supervision and that this level of brutality could occur under the watch of experienced Sheriff’s Department supervisors,” he continued.
Kaye said the jury’s decision was a “resounding indictment” and should send “a huge message to the Sheriff’s Department” to change its practices.
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