by Benjamin Tschirhart
On August 18, 2018, Milan Jackson was riding on Caltrain near the rail system’s stop in Redwood City, California. At some point Jackson, who suffers ADHD and autism, lay down on the train floor, not foreseeing the dire consequences of this innocuous action: He was arrested by San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies and taken to the county’s Maguire Correctional Facility.
Blake Lycett and the other deputies carried Jackson from a patrol car into the jail with his hands cuffed behind his back, twisting his fingers so hard that he pleaded with deputies not to break them, according to a complaint he later filed. Once in the jail, they took Jackson to a cell where they forced him to the ground, still handcuffed. Jackson, experiencing a sensory overload due to his autism, kept his eyes closed during this process. However, he heard an unnamed deputy say, “I’m off duty so no one will know I was here.”
After that, Lycett and two other deputies allegedly kneed Jackson in the back, twisting his head around to strike him repeatedly in the face. The assault left Jackson with a broken nose, an injured wrist, and facial lacerations. After the beating, his handcuffs were removed, and he was left alone in the cell.
Jail surveillance cameras captured the incident, which was not the first time they filmed Lycett beating prisoners in his custody, a point District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe made when he charged the deputy with battery. But Lycett’s attorneys then hired an expert to write a report on the use of force against Jackson, and the County also hired an expert to write a similar report, after which Wagstaffe said he found the reports “persuasive” and dismissed the charges on December 3, 2019.
Meanwhile, with the aid of attorneys Justin E. Sterling of Encino and Erin Darling of Los Angeles, Jackson filed suit in federal court for the Northern District of California on September 26, 2019, accusing Lycett and 10 “Doe” fellow deputies, as well as the County, its Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos, of civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Jackson’s claim was dismissed in May 2020, but he filed a second amended complaint on June 16 that same year, and this time his case found traction. On February 22, 2021, the parties attended a settlement conference presided over by Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson, at which Lycett and San Mateo County agreed to settle all claims, including costs and attorney’s fees, for $350,000. The lawsuit was subsequently dropped. See: Jackson v. San Mateo Cty., USDC (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:19-CV-06134.
In a society which allows sadists to wear the uniform of law enforcement, shielding them from liability for wrongdoing with “qualified immunity”—the same society which has also criminalized mental illness and poverty—perhaps this is the inevitable outcome: It has become a greater crime to lie down on a train than to brutally assault an innocent man.
Additional sources: San Mateo Daily Journal
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Related legal case
Jackson v. San Mateo Cty.
|USDC (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:19-CV-06134