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$15,000 Settlement by Santa Clara County for Jail Prisoner Brutalized by Guards

By Chuck Sharman

Attorneys for Santa Clara County, California, signed an agreement on November 4, 2019, to settle claims by a prisoner at the County jail that he was brutalized by guards in a January 2015 incident. The settlement pays $15,000 to a representative for the prisoner, Scott Michael Conway, in exchange for release of all claims against the county and its employees.

On January 31, 2015, one day after refusing a demand by guards that he and his cellmate address fellow prisoners about their alleged misconduct, a sweep was conducted through the cell where Conway was held. Five guards—identified by the last names of Diaz, Tejada, Duenas, Ruban and Alvarez—strip-searched Conway and handcuffed his cellmate, while a sixth guard, Pham, stood by.

Conway, who had just undergone appendix surgery, was punched in his fresh stitches and hit several more times in the head before the guards dragged him away by his half-torn-off underwear, in full view of other prisoners in the lockup.

He filed a grievance on February 1, 2015. Three days later, Ruban came to warn him to stop filing “bullshit grievances.” The following day, February 5, 2015, Pham came to interview Conway about the claims in his grievance—even though he was one of the guards who had been present at the incident, and jail policy should have precluded him from conducting an investigation. Pham determined that the grievance was without merit and that Conway’s injuries must have been self-inflicted.

Another assault by guards followed on February 18, 2015, leaving Conway and his cellmate dripping with pepper spray.

Conway then filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in June 2015, claiming that the attacks by the guards employed excessive force and violated his civil rights under federal law. He also claimed under state law that the guards were guilty of assault, battery, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

His claim was amended on November 30, 2016, to include Sheriff Laurie Smith. The $15,000 settlement agreement was reached almost three years later, at the end of October 2019. Conway was represented by attorney Steve M. Defilippis of the San Jose firm of Picone & Defilippis.

See: Conway v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, USDC (N.D.Ca.), Case No. 16-cv-0082-TEH.

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Related legal case

Conway v. Cnty. of Santa Clara