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LA County Jail Guards’ Conviction for Assaulting Visitor Upheld

by David Reutter

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the convictions of three guards who assaulted a handcuffed visitor at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail in February 2011.

Gabriel Moses Carrillo and his girlfriend, Griselda Torres, were visiting Carrillo’s brother at the facility. Deputy Pantamir Zunggeemoge brought Torres into an employee break room to see if she had brought a cell phone into the visitation area. After it was determined she had done so, Torres told the guards that Carrillo also had a cell phone.

Sergeant Eric Gonzalez ordered Zunggeemoge to get Carrillo and bring him to the break room. Carrillo was handcuffed and searched; when he questioned the reason for the search, Zunggeemoge, who later cooperated with prosecutors, lifted Carrillo’s handcuffed arms “all the way up so he could feel some pain.”

Carrillo’s comment that things would be different if he were not handcuffed irritated Deputy Susie Ayala. She “instigated [a] beating by summoning other officers to the break room,” the Ninth Circuit wrote. Carrillo was assaulted and pepper-sprayed so severely that “he suffered bone fractures, trauma to the head and face, a broken nose, and multiple lacerations.”

Led by Gonzalez, the deputies concocted a story and wrote reports to cover up the beating. Zunggeemoge was directed to file a report that resulted in criminal charges against Carrillo, which were later dropped after the incident was investigated. [See: PLN, Mar. 2016, p.1; Mar. 2013, p.1].

Carrillo filed a federal civil rights complaint against various jail guards, supervisors and Los Angeles County, alleging “the deputies threw Mr. Carrillo to the floor and began punching and kicking his body and face. Mr. Carrillo’s hands were still handcuffed behind his back while he was beaten on the floor. At times he was pulled by his handcuffed hands in order to move his body.” Carrillo also said the guards tried to cover up the details of the beating, and fabricated a story that he had resisted arrest and attacked jail personnel.

After almost three years of litigation, the defendants settled the case in August 2014, agreeing to pay $1.2 million in a structured settlement. See: Carrillo v. County of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:12-cv-02609-DSF-PJW.

Meanwhile, federal authorities filed criminal charges against the deputies, and a jury convicted them on all counts. Count one charged Gonzalez and Ayala with depriving Carrillo of his civil rights; count two charged Gonzalez, Ayala and Luviano with willfully depriving Carrillo of his right to be free of excessive force; and the third count charged all three with falsifying reports to obstruct an investigation.

Gonzalez was sentenced to 96 months in prison, Luviano received an 84-month sentence and Ayala was sentenced to 72 months. In an October 10, 2018 decision, the Ninth Circuit found the evidence presented at trial supported the convictions and there was no reversible error, including with respect to a claim of juror bias. The convictions and sentences were affirmed. See: United States v. Gonzalez, 906 F.3d 784 (9th Cir. 2018), rehearing and rehearing en banc denied. 


Additional source: Los Angeles Times

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Related legal case

United States v. Gonzalez