Six members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were convicted Tuesday of obstructing justice in relation to a federal investigation into violence against inmates in county jails.
This case stems from a federal investigation that began in 2010, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began looking into allegations of violence and excessive force against inmates in county jails. The FBI began interviewing inmates regarding potential civil rights abuses committed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
According to prosecutors, the defendants in the case conspired to hide a federal informant, an inmate who had been interviewed by the FBI, by transferring and rebooking him in jail in order to prevent him from testifying in front of a grand jury regarding allegations of violence against inmates. It has been reported that the informant was moved to various cells in the Men's Central Jail Downtown and was then taken to a Temple City sheriff's station and finally to a San Dimas substation, during August and September 2011, after an FBI cell phone was found in his possession, indicating he was working with federal investigators. Defense attorneys have countered that their clients were simply following orders.
The six defendants were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice after a week of deliberations by a federal court jury in downtown Los Angeles. These charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years. Two of the defendants were also convicted of making false statements, with an additional maximum sentence of up to 5 years. The defendants are to be sentenced on September 8.
A seventh defendant in the case was also tried last month, but a mistrial was declared when the jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict.
Whether charges will be filed in relation to the actual violence against inmates remains to be seen.
This case brings up several important issues, one of which involves inmates' rights. If you are convicted of a crime and imprisoned, whether in county jail or state prison, you have basic rights. The use of violence and excessive force should not be tolerated, and any law enforcement officers who are guilty of these civil rights violations should be held accountable. Personnel at jails and prisons are charged with the task of keeping inmates confined to the facility, of course, but they must also take reasonable measures to keep them safe.
Unreasonable transfers, confinement, excessive force and denial of food, water and medical treatment are examples of basic rights violations that should be reported immediately. If you have questions about your rights in jail and as a criminal defendant, please do not hesitate to involve a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Lessem & Newstat. We are committed to fighting for our clients' rights and stand prepared to answer your questions and address your concerns.