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Los Angeles County to Pay Almost $4 Million for Sexual Abuse by Jail Deputy

by Douglas Ankney

In November 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $3.9 million to settle claims against the county, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD), Sheriff James McDonnell and Deputy Giancarlo Scotti. The Board’s decision ended a lawsuit brought by two former female prisoners and a potential suit by another.

Jennifer Ann Matthews said Scotti entered her cell at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF), ordered her to expose herself, then forced her to perform oral sex on him. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.1]. After she reported the incident to the LACSD’s Department of Internal Affairs, she was removed from her drug counseling and treatment program, reclassified to a higher security level and removed from her special diet reserved for pregnant prisoners. Additionally, she was threatened in the presence of jail staff by other prisoners who perceived Scotti as being a “cool guard,” and staff did nothing to intervene.

Thea Valerie Lampert accused Scotti of entering her cell at CRDF and ordering her to the showers, where he forced her to engage in oral sex and then raped her. Scotti threatened Lampert not to say anything to anyone. Lampert gave authorities a tissue that she had used to wipe off Scotti’s semen; after reporting the incident, she was removed from her cell and prevented from interacting with other prisoners.

Matthews and Lampert filed a joint complaint raising 16 causes of action, including that LACSD personnel were aware of Scotti’s assaults on numerous prisoners but did nothing to stop him. Claims against the county and Sheriff McDonnell included negligent hiring practices; failure to train, supervise and discipline employees; and maintaining unconstitutional customs, policies and practices – as evidenced by a failure to ensure CRDF was compliant with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, as lone male guards were allowed to observe nude female prisoners in their cells and in the showers. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors settled the lawsuit for $2,250,000.

Melissa Williams was also one of Scotti’s victims while she was incarcerated at CRDF, and the Board settled her claim for $1,650,000. 

At least six women have been plaintiffs in lawsuits against Scotti and the LACSD. Scotti was charged with eight counts of sexual activity with a detainee in a correctional facility, and those charges remain pending. See: Matthews v. County of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:17-cv-07908-DMG-PLA. 


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Related legal case

Matthews v. County of Los Angeles