L.A. County sheriff’s deputy pleads no contest to inmate assault


A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded no contest Monday to assaulting a 19-year-old inmate in the back seat of a patrol car, prosecutors said.

Matthew John Funicello, 31, was placed on three years’ probation and ordered to complete one year of counseling, Los Angeles County district attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

He originally was charged with a felony in connection with the July 22, 2011, incident, but it was reduced to a misdemeanor count of the same charge -- assault by a public officer -- as part of a plea agreement.


If convicted of the felony charge, Funicello would have faced up to three years in county jail.

Prosecutors had alleged that Funicello struck inmate Dewayne Wright “several times in the face and torso with his fist” as he moved Wright from the sheriff’s Palmdale station to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.

Funicello, a deputy since 2006, was immediately placed on leave without pay after his April arrest, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore previously told The Times. Whitmore said Monday that an internal affairs investigation into the deputy would begin now that the matter was settled in court.

Funicello was riding with another deputy and two inmates in a car at the time of the incident. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the other deputy, though Whitmore said in April that he was being investigated by internal affairs.

The investigation into the incident began after a citizen complaint, Whitmore said, adding that the department had been unaware of the incident until then.



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