“Abject Cruelty”: California Jail Guards Sentenced for Coordinating Prisoner Excrement Fights
Two Sheriff’s deputies in Alameda County, California, were sentenced to prison on August 18, 2021, after pleading guilty to charges that they orchestrated a disgusting fight at the county jail, directing detainees to throw urine and fecal matter on one another.
The deputies, Justin Linn and Erik McDermott, were assigned as guards at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in 2016 and 2017 when they found a new method of entertaining themselves called ‘gassing’—a euphemism for excrement fights, which they set up between detainees. One detainee who wrote letters about it to the guards’ supervisor and the media found himself ‘gassed’ on a daily basis in retaliation.
“It was so bad that the crime scene restoration crew had to constantly come out and sanitize the place,” the hapless detainee stated.
Those who cooperated in the ‘gassings’ were granted special privileges by Linn and McDermott, including extra food and more time outside of their cells. One detainee testified to participating in dozens of ‘gassing’ incidents in 2019.
For their “sadistic and terrorizing acts,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley successfully argued that the two now-fired guards should be convicted of assault by a public officer, as well as dissuading a witness by threat or force. After their conviction, the men were each sentenced to four years and four months in prison.
“The conduct of these defendants violated the law and there was no rational explanation for their actions aside from abject cruelty and a disregard for the humanity of the inmates,” O’Malley said.
Two other deputies working as guards at the jail, Sarah Krause and Stephen Sarcos, were involved in the abuse as well. But they accepted plea agreements in 2020 and were thus able to avoid going to jail.
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