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$65,000 Paid by Santa Clara County to Disabled Man Medically Ignored and Roughed Up by Guards at County Jail

By Chuck Sharman

On December 31, 2020, a settlement was fully executed by Santa Clara County, California, in which it agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a disabled former prisoner at the county jail who alleged that he was harassed and roughed up by guards—one of whom was the brother of an ex-girlfriend he was accused of stalking.

The events began in December 2014, when Leopoldo Manzo, Jr., was picked up by County deputies after getting into a family dispute. He was taken to the county jail, where he informed guards during intake that he was taking several prescription medications because of an enormous hernia he was due to have surgery to repair, one of several injuries stemming from a shooting the year before that left him disabled.

At the jail, Manzo said his requests for medical treatment and accommodation went largely ignored. But then so were court orders to provide him care—seven in all—from county judges, before whom he regularly appeared over the next 22 months.

The situation was made even worse by harassment Manzo endured from one guard in particular, Innocente Carrasco, who happened to be the brother of Manzo’s ex-girlfriend, a woman who had accused Manzo of stalking and obtained a restraining order against him.

The problem came to a head in March 2015, when Carrasco lied that Manzo’s court date had been canceled, causing the prisoner to miss it. It happened again later that same month with two of Carrasco’s fellow guards, Arturo Romero and Adrian Romero.

By June 2015, the three guards had been joined by two more, Theodore Shelton and Dean Dowd, in openly harassing Manzo, he said. Adrian Romero even removed Manzo’s restraints and attempted to goad him into a physical fight. Afterward, Manzo said, Carrasco and the other guards shoved him down while he was restrained in his cell, and Carrasco taunted him by saying, “I’ll kick your crippled ass.”

Manzo complained about the guards’ excessive use of force, and an Internal Affairs investigation was initiated. Carrasco then went to court in July 2015 and lodged a felony stalking charge against Manzo, obtaining a restraining order, too. Both the charge and the protective order had been dismissed by October 2015.

A year later, in October 2016, Manzo still had not had surgery to repair the hernia, then two years old. He was also moved to restrictive housing, exacerbating weight gain caused by the long period of reduced mobility from living with his untreated disabilities.

He filed and exhausted administrative claims. When he was released, he then filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 2, 2017, accusing the guards and the county of violating his constitutional right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §794. The County responded by denying all allegations on April 14, 2017, before the parties reached their settlement agreement.

Manzo was represented by attorneys Robert R. Powell and Sarah E. Marinho of the San Jose firm of Powell & Associates.

See: Manzo v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, USDC (N.D.Ca.), Case No. 5:17-cv-01099.

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Related legal case

Manzo v. Cnty. of Santa Clara