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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Defies Court Order, Refuses to Allow Attorney to Take Photographs of Injured Prisoner

Claiming there was “nothing to hide,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore nevertheless defended the decision of the Sheriff’s Department not to comply with a court order authorizing an attorney to take photographs of his incarcerated client, who, according to the attorney, was so badly beaten by jail deputies that he could not recognize him.

Whitmore described the detainee, Federico Bustos, as so “extraordinarily aggressive” that he routinely hurt himself and others. According to Whitmore, Bustos, who was charged with murder and attempted murder in the kidnapping and shooting of two men in 2006, was injured during a cell extraction.

While Deputy Public Defender John F. Montoya decried the February 2011 incident, saying he had “never represented anyone who was as severely beaten by the police as Federico Bustos was,” Whitmore claimed that Bustos – who sustained bruises to his face, body, legs and left eye – had not been injured as seriously as Montoya alleged.

According to court records, in January 2011, after repeatedly refusing to leave his cell to appear in court, Bustos was found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. On February 23, as Bustos awaited transfer to Patton State Hospital, sheriff’s deputies observed him behaving strangely. That’s when they tried to extract him from his jail cell. Following standard practice, the incident was recorded with a video camera.

Montoya sought and obtained a court order to document the injuries to Bustos because he believed they could provide evidence of his client’s mental problems and thus be relevant to his criminal defense. Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo explained, however, that his office had not been given an opportunity to oppose Montoya’s request. Concerned about the order’s validity, the county refused to comply and was prepared to challenge it in court – which Montoya called “patently self-serving and outrageous.”
The matter was dropped after a lieutenant explained to the judge who issued the order that Bustos was housed in a secure area of the jail where neither civilians nor cameras were allowed. In other words, there’s nothing to see here; no need for pictures that might corroborate allegations of abuse. The video footage of the incident, however, may shed light on the injuries that Bustos sustained. Whitmire said the video would be provided to the public defender’s office following an internal affairs investigation.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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