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Los Angeles County Pays $40,000 Damages to Assaulted Prisoner Informant Witness

The County of Los Angeles, California paid $40,000 to a prisoner who was badly beaten in the county jail upon returning from court, by friends of the defendant he had just testified against in a murder trial.

In November 2003, James Vensel, a Los Angeles County Jail prisoner, testified against another prisoner in a murder trial. Upon his return to the jail, he was attacked and injured by five prisoners who were members of the same gang as the person he testified against. Vensel was placed in a holding cell with 25 other prisoners rather than being given protective housing.

Vensel’s suit alleged that the injuries to his head, including partial facial paralysis, were suffered in retaliation for his testimony and that the County owed him a duty of witness protection, but failed. The matter was settled for $40,000 on November 27, 2007, after county counsel estimated a potential award of $127,500 if the matter went to trial. The county’s legal expenses totaled $75,043. Vensel was represented by attorney Jill Shigut. See: Vensel v. County of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Cal.), Case No. CV 04-07151.

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