Jail Lawsuits


Officials failed to prevent his father's suicide in March, the complaint says

By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer 
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Saturday, November 16, 2002 

Sacramento County, its sheriff and four jail officials were sued Friday by the 14-year-old son of a Carmichael man who hanged himself in his cell. 

Mohammad Reza Abdollahi, described in the federal lawsuit as "a popular 51-year-old barber with a loyal clientele," was a heroin addict with repeated drug-possession arrests, the last one in March. 

On the evening of March 26, he was suffering severe withdrawal pains "and went to his jailers and told them that he was having suicidal impulses," the 18-page complaint says. 

The suit quotes the autopsy report as saying Abdollahi was seen by "a health-care worker who decided (he) was not suicidal and was using this as an attempt to get more medication." He was returned to a cell on the eighth floor of the downtown jail, but there was no suicide watch nor "any other measures to prevent him from taking his life, such as increased monitoring or supervision," the complaint alleges. 

"Soon after ... Mr. Abdollahi (hanged) himself from the top bunk ... with material from a blanket," the complaint relates. 

Stewart Katz, an attorney for Abdollahi's son, said Friday he still has not identified the person who dismissed Abdollahi's claim of suicidal tendencies. 

The physician who performed the autopsy described the person as "a health-care worker" in her report. In a later case summary, however, a deputy coroner said Abdollahi was seen by a "psychiatric physician." 

"Mr. Abdollahi's death came in the midst of an epidemic of suicides at the Sacramento County main jail caused by inadequate training, inadequate supervision, inadequate policies and procedures, negligence, deliberate indifference and professional malpractice," the suit claims. 

The lawsuit says Abdollahi arrived in the United States in 1984, in the wake of political upheaval in his native Iran. Before immigrating, he was a police officer and "had completed his studies in law," it adds. 

The suit was filed by attorneys Katz and Costa Kerestenzis on behalf of Sina Abdollahi, through his mother, Parvin Ganji. She and the boy's father were divorced. 

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an unspecified amount. 

While the Sheriff's Department had no comment about Friday's legal attack, it has vigorously defended itself in the face of a public outcry over seven jail suicides this year and at least seven near misses. 

Sheriff Lou Blanas has pushed for a transfer of control over health care at the facility from the county coroner to his department. 

Sheriff's Sgt. Lou Fatur said Friday it is hoped the Board of Supervisors will approve that move in time to implement it Jan. 1. 

The department's defense featured a panel of mental health professionals giving a progress report in May to the supervisors on a study prompted by the rash of suicides. 

They reported that the death rate in the Sacramento jail is low compared to those in similar facilities. They said the stress of jail and being crowded in with strangers make the suicide rate nine to 16 times greater than among the population as a whole. 

The board was told of a three-day inspection of the jail in April by Lindsay Hayes of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, whose visit was in conjunction with a multiagency study of psychiatric services and suicide prevention at the facility. 

Chief Deputy for Correctional and Security Services Jim Babcock said at the time that Hayes was impressed with the jail's overall operation, and he suggested some modifications. 

The Abdollahi suit, however, describes the May presentation as a "dog-and-pony show" designed to gloss over manpower and supervisorial shortcomings. 

"Moreover," the suit adds, Blanas, his jail commander, and two top health-care professionals assigned there "tried to insulate themselves from civil liability and/or deflect attention from the problems at the jail by withholding the release of the final autopsy report and findings" on Abdollahi's death. 

The autopsy was performed March 28, the day after he died, but the report was not completed until Sept. 10. 

The report says Abdollahi was seen lying on his bunk at 11:30 p.m. March 26, during a routine cell check. At 28 minutes after midnight on March 27, a deputy found him unresponsive, "seated partially on the side of his bed with a ligature around his neck suspended from the upper bunk." He was pronounced dead in his cell 25 minutes later. 

About the Writer 

The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or  dwalsh@sacbee.com

News briefs from California's Central Coast 
The Associated Press 
Friday, November 1, 2002 
©2002 Associated Press 

URL:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/11/01/state1021EST0048.DTL

(11-01) 07:21 PST SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Former Sheriff Jim Thomas was critical of his adversaries who he believes leaked a nearly $1 million settlement against the Sheriff's Department had been reached this week for an incident that occurred while Thomas was in office. 

The settlement was scheduled to be announced at next Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, though it became public record Oct. 23 when the plaintiffs formally accepted it. The County Counsel's office was required to release information about it to anyone who made a specific request. 

Thomas said someone tipped off the media about the settlement so that the story broke Thursday, just days before the bitterly contested recall election on Tuesday. 

Thomas is among the leaders of the campaign to recall Supervisor Gail Marshall. His name is the only one on the ballot and if the recall against Marshall is successful, Thomas would become the new supervisor. 

"There's no doubt in my mind that someone probably had ulterior motives to embarrass me," Thomas said. "Who would have known the information prior to the time it was supposed to be released? I have my suspicions." 

Marshall's camp denied that it had anything to do with the settlement disclosure. 

"We didn't leak it. No one from our office leaked it," said Das Williams, manager of Marshall's campaign. "I didn't even know about (the settlement) until yesterday." 

The supervisors authorized the $950,000 settlement on a 4-0 vote in an Oct. 8 closed session hearing. 

The payment settles allegations that sheriff's deputies beat up two Harley Davidson bikers in a Los Alamos bar last year. The county will pay $500,000 to the plaintiffs, David and Carina Richardson, of Los Alamos, and George Beeghly, of Lompoc, and insurance will pick up the rest. 

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) -- An inmate who was shot while trying to escape from a medical facility could face up to 12 years in state prison after entering a no contest plea. 
Scott Brockman, 33, appeared in court Tuesday and accepted a plea to charges of escape with force or violence. The charge carries possible terms of four, eight or 12 years in prison. 

He was serving a 14-year prison term for vehicular manslaughter when he was transported from the prison to a medical facility in San Luis Obispo in June. 

Brockman was supposed to get a CAT scan but he instead punched a correctional officer in the face and fled. The guard ran after Brockman and shot the inmate in the back as he tried to scale a fence. 

Brockman will be sentenced Dec. 3. 

©2002 Associated Press 


Inmate beaten in Seal Beach jail files lawsuit 

The guard who orchestrated the attack is named, along with another guard, the city and the jail operator. 

June 15, 2002 
The Orange County Register 

A former Seal Beach city jail inmate who was beaten by another inmate at the direction of a civilian guard is suing the city, two jail guards and the private company that operates the small, low-security facility. 

Arrow Stowers, 29, was beaten on June 21, 2001, after he repeatedly ignored the guard's orders to stop yelling. Stowers was arrested for public drunkenness, an allegation he has denied. 

In December, former Seal Beach jailer Javier Ferreira, 32, was convicted on a federal charge of violating Stowers' civil rights and obstruction of justice for trying to cover up the crime. He is serving a prison sentence of four years, three months. 

"I'm still very angry about this situation," said Stowers, who suffered cuts and bruises to his face in the attack. Even though the guard was convicted, I've definitely lost my faith in the system." 

Seal Beach officials could not be reached for comment. 

Inmate David Gill, who carried out the attack on Stowers, was a key witness in the trial against Ferreira and was not prosecuted. Another civilian guard, James Buford Edward Smith, 27, was acquitted. 

Smith was on his third day on the job when he followed Ferreira's instructions and turned off the jail's surveillance cameras, moments before the assault. He maintained that he didn't know Ferreira was staging an assault. 

The guards were employed by Correctional Systems Inc. of San Diego, a private jail operator that manages detention facilities throughout the country, including those in Seal Beach and Garden Grove. 

Officials there did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday. 

On the day of the attack, Stowers said he was yelling in an effort to force authorities to administer an alcohol test or set him free. Stowers was not given an alcohol test and was never charged with a crime. 

Three inmates have died in the Seal Beach city jail in recent years. Correctional Systems Inc. has made secret payments to settle lawsuits brought by families of two of the inmates. 

Stowers' attorney, Douglas W. Perlman of Lawndale, blames the facility's problems on the poor training and low salaries paid by Correctional Systems Inc. 

"I think what we have here is a situation where the bottom line becomes more important that the civil rights of the public," Perlman said. "You have a for-profit company running the jail, and they're going to do whatever they can to keep their expenses down. 

"When the allegations surfaced last summer, Seal Beach city officials considered ending their eight-year relationship with Correctional Systems Inc. But after reviewing other options, the council voted 5-0 in March to renew the contract for three more years. 

Published on June 13, 2002, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


LOS ANGELES - A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $38,000 to an inmate who said he was beaten by a sheriff's deputy at the Pitchess Detention Center. 

Javier Rocha was given $13,000 for the use of force against him and $25,000 for disregard of his civil rights. 

The jury didn't find that sheriff's Deputy David Sameyah acted maliciously, but found him liable for battery and for violating Rocha's civil rights during a search at the North County Correctional Facility, part . . . 


Man who died in custody ruled a homicide, authorities say 

 Thursday, June 6, 2002 

(06-06) 01:11 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Coroner's officials have ruled the death of a man who died after being handcuffed by El Monte police was a homicide. Coroner's spokesman David Campbell said Wednesday that examiners found the death of 31-year-old Frank Tranquilino resulted from the combined effects of neck compression and cocaine and methamphetamine intoxication. 

Tranquilino died in October after police said he fought with several officers, then lost consciousness after being restrained. He died a short time later at a nearby hospital. At the time of Tranquilino's death, El Monte's then-police chief, Bill Ankeny, said that police had used a control hold to subdue the man. John Sweeney, a lawyer representing Tranquilino's 15-year-old son, Rudy, said Wednesday that he believed the report suggested that a chokehold had been used. 

An independent pathologist he hired, he said, "concluded that the death was due to asphyxia, probably a chokehold." But the coroner's report does not say anything about a chokehold to describe how Tranquilino was restrained. "Clearly, the El Monte Police Department killed this man," Sweeney said. "They denied it. It took the coroner's report to verify what we knew all along." 

Pete Ferguson, an attorney representing El Monte, denied that police officers used excessive force, noting that high levels of cocaine and methamphetamines were found in Tranquilino's blood. "Minimal force was applied," Ferguson said. "If the guy didn't take drugs, he'd be alive today and would be sitting in jail for assaulting and battering police officers." 

Tranquilino's family has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city of El Monte. Family members seek general and punitive damages, as well as an additional $10 million under a Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization claim. The suit alleges that Tranquilino's civil rights were violated. 

June 4, 2002 

Supervisors to Vote on Paying Family of Man Who Died After Struggle at O.C. Jail 


Orange County supervisors are to vote today on whether to pay a six-figure settlement to relatives of a man who the family says suffered fatal head injuries at the hands of sheriff's deputies. 

Gilbert Garcia died June 1, 1998, two days after he was taken out of Orange County Jail on a stretcher after a struggle with deputies. Part of the confrontation was captured on videotape. 

A Sheriff's Department official confirmed Monday that a settlement had been offered but declined to give details. A source described the county's offer as a "substantial six-figure settlement." 

Garden Grove police brought Garcia, 32, to the county jail after arresting him on an outstanding drunken-driving warrant. 

A jail surveillance video shows Garcia interacting with jail staff with no sign of an injury, shortly before he struggled on the floor with four deputies, said R. Samuel Paz, the family's attorney. 

Garcia, who sustained a fractured skull and brain injury, died at a hospital two days later. 

Orange County prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges, citing evidence that Garcia could have been injured before he was brought to the jail. 

The FBI opened an investigation of Garcia's death last year. Federal officials have not yet decided whether to pursue criminal charges against the deputies involved, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. 

Paz said he has spoken to the FBI and has offered to turn over his case file to assist the investigation. 



Court orders Newport Beach to pay inmate 
City will appeal decision that awards man $172,867 for injuries he suffered from a fellow prisoner while in police custody. 
By Deepa Bharath 

March 28 2002 

NEWPORT BEACH -- An appellate court has ordered the city to pay $172,867 to a man who was beaten by a fellow arrestee while in police custody in 1997. 

The 4th District Court of Appeals awarded the money to Craig Teter, 60, for a beating that sent him to the hospital with severe injuries to the face and eyes. Teter spent time in Newport Beach City Jail after officers arrested him on suspicion of public drunkenness. 

The case came to the appellate court after the city appealed a 1998 jury trial that favored Teter. Teter was arrested about 8 p.m. June 8, 1997, on suspicion of being intoxicated in public and was put in a cell to sober up, his attorney Michael Cully said. About 7 a.m. the following morning, another prisoner, arrested for sleeping on the beach, was placed in the same cell. 

The cell had an interior door that could have been locked to separate the two men, but that door was left open, Cully said. The other man severely beat Teter, resulting in a broken eye socket and a concussion. Cully said the injuries Teter suffered left him permanently scarred and with vision problems. 

The city argued on the basis of "governmental immunity," saying it was not liable for prisoners who suffer injuries while in custody. 

"We're not disputing the fact that the incident happened," said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Shulman. "The issue here is a legal one." 

Shulman said the city is considering appealing Tuesday's decision. He added, however, that the Police Department is now "much more sensitive to the safety of prisoners." 

In this case, Shulman said, neither prisoner demonstrated violent tendencies. 

Cully said the appellate court made the right decision. 

"Mr. Teter was severely beaten," he said. "Police should have assessed the situation better before putting that fellow in the cell [with Teter]." 
* Deepa Bharath covers public safety and courts. She may be reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at  deepa.bharath@latimes.com  . 
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Published on November 21, 2001, The Orange County Register 

Miscue blamed in $95,000 settlement with jail inmate

Cities - Santa Ana failed to quickly move a threatened man, who later alleged his cellmate attacked him. 

Santa Ana officials Tuesday cited a communications mix-up as a factor that contributed to a $95,000 settlement the city paid to a counterfeiter who alleged he was sexually assaulted by his 6-foot-7-inch, 270-pound bank-robber cellmate. 

The City Council voted Nov. 5 to pay the settlement rather than risk a lawsuit by the counterfeiter over the attack, alleged to have occurred in February. The man's cellmate, Christopher Oakes, 31, had ``Hitler'' tattooed on his head and 



Sheriff Social Worker 

November 20 2001 

For years, Kevin Lamar Evans pushed a shopping cart brimming with his possessions through the streets of Lancaster and Palmdale, bedroom communities that were supposed to be immune to such notorious signs of urban blight. His death in 1999, while clutching a baloney sandwich in the Twin Towers jail downtown, helped spur Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to radically rethink law enforcement's approach to the seemingly intractable problem of mentally ill and addicted people living on public streets. 

Evans had been born with cerebral palsy, in South-Central Los Angeles. At age 18, he hissed at his sister. His mother and godmother thought he'd been possessed by Satan. The schizophrenia only got worse. By 23, he had drifted to the high desert, where he often stayed in shelters at night and wandered the streets by day, talking to his voices. His death, while he was strapped down in jail, stemmed from his 13th run-in with the law in two years. Suddenly the newly elected sheriff found himself trying to understand the other role thrust upon him: warden of a jail that is, in fact, "the world's largest mental institution." Los Angeles has public and private organizations to help people down on their luck and without a place to stay. But most of the people who wind up living on the streets have mental illness, addictions or both. Now Baca and his staff are spearheading a plan to start breaking the jail-to-streets cycle that continues to ensnare thousands of people like Kevin Evans, while exacting an unacceptably high price on civic pride and public services. 

In part because of federal pressure, the jail has already begun screening inmates for mental illness and referring them to services once they get out. Next, Baca hopes to give these people a place to sleep and wash and take advantage of services from job training to counseling that will help them move toward more productive lives. His Public Safety Center for the Homeless would put 150 tent-like living spaces in an area close enough to downtown that many of the 500 people released from Twin Towers each day would choose the camp over the filthy, drug-rich encampments on skid row or in nearby industrial areas. 

Baca has done his homework, learning from the county's handful of successful nonprofit shelters and drop-in centers. He knows that even if there were enough shelter beds in the county--which there are not--many of the people camped out on the city's sidewalks would remain outside, because their delusions and paranoia make the rules and confinement of shelters and missions a form of torture. An open center, with guaranteed safety measures, would appeal to some of these people. In the 1980s, then-Mayor Tom Bradley's "urban campground for the homeless" became a magnet for crime. But Baca makes a persuasive case that with law enforcement at the core of the effort that problem won't arise. 

Now the state should come up with the $8 million the sheriff has requested to build the center, and the Board of Supervisors should direct the county Department of Mental Health to oversee it as a pilot program, while working toward better coordination of services countywide. 

Sound expensive? Consider: The Sheriff's Department spends $10 million a year just on psychiatric medicine for the sick people who cycle incessantly though the Twin Towers. California shells out $1.8 billion a year arresting, trying and imprisoning the mentally ill. 

There are critics who think "Sheriff Moonbeam" is unrealistic--and on plenty of issues he is. On this one, though, Baca has shown solid leadership, attacking a problem that most elected officials dodge or pass on to others. Jail cells should be used to lock up serious criminals, not to house trespassers with mental illness. And letting people live and die on the sidewalks ought to be a crime. 


Jury orders LA County to pay $1 million to inmate raped in jail

Thursday, November 22, 2001 

(11-22) 00:49 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A jury awarded $1 million to a 39-year-old man who was beaten and raped in jail after he was supposed to be released. Jay Reynolds, 39, of Ontario was attacked in March 1999 about eight hours after a judge ordered his release. He was being held for not paying a year's worth of child support payments in South Dakota. The judge ordered his release after South Dakota authorities decided against extradition. Reynolds was sent back to jail where later that night inmates sexually assaulted him. Two inmates were convicted for the rape and assault and sent to state prison. 

The county will appeal the jury's verdict, which was returned Tuesday. "This assault was a tragic event, but we don't feel the county is liable in an instance like this. There was no advance notice or indication that he might be in any form of danger," said Louis Aguilar, chief of litigation for the county counsel. After the attack, the inmates threatened Reynolds and demanded that he give them his address. They also forced him to write a confession saying that whatever happened in the cell was voluntary, Reynolds said. 

"This took a part of me, a part of my soul ...," he said. "They say this happens all the time. That makes me so angry, to shrug it off like it's just part of life." Earlier this year, Los Angeles County was ordered to pay $27 million in settlements to inmates who had been held past their release date. County officials say they are now releasing inmates directly at the courthouse to avoid potential problems 


Jail suits raise eyebrows

Courts Inmates or their families filed 108 lawsuits against the county in 1999, and some groups fear a pattern of abuse. 

April 8, 2001 
The number of lawsuits filed on behalf of Orange County jail inmates has risen sharply during the past seven years, costing taxpayers more than $2 million in settlements, judgments and legal costs, county figures show.Neither county supervisors nor sheriff's officials would comment on a reason for the dramatic increase in jail lawsuits. But the spike comes amid rising concern by plaintiff's attorneys and inmate-rights advocates over alleged systemic brutality by 


Psychiatric Patient Accused Of Killing Hospital Roommate

Chronicle Staff Report Saturday, December 11, 1999 

MENLO PARK -- A psychiatric patient suspected of killing his roommate at the Veterans Administration hospital in Menlo Park was booked on suspicion of murder into the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City yesterday. 

Vincent Jesse Aflague, 55, is accused of choking 78-year-old Harry Hopkins to death about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Hospital police were called to the psychiatric ward 15 minutes later and detained Aflague until Menlo Park police arrived. Aflague was later transferred from Redwood City to the Santa Clara County Jail's psychiatric ward in San Jose. 

The San Mateo County jail does not have a floor for psychiatric patients, said Sergeant Terri Molakides, a Menlo Park police spokeswoman. Investigators believe the men, who shared a two-bedroom at the Menlo Park facility, had a disagreement over holiday music. The preliminary cause of death is strangulation, according to the San Mateo County coroner's office. The San Mateo County district attorney's office is expected to file charges following a police investigation. 




Santa Ana Jail-Attack Suit Settled

Crime: Former inmate will get about $95,000 after alleging he was assaulted by swastika-tattooed cellmate. 


November 20 2001 

The city of Santa Ana will pay nearly $100,000 to a white-collar criminal who was beaten and raped by a Nazi-tattooed cellmate just hours after a U.S. District judge had ordered the men separated, officials said Monday. 

The out-of-court settlement stems from a Feb. 12 attack on a 32-year-old accountant who was awaiting trial on charges of counterfeiting. A month earlier, the accountant had been placed in the cell of a 270-pound inmate whose body bore many swastika tattoos and a tattoo that said "Hitler," according to a civil claim filed against the city. 

The accountant said he endured weeks of harassment and threats before convincing then-U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to order the jail to move him to another cell. But jail officials failed to act promptly, and the accountant was attacked the evening of the court order when the other inmate learned of the man's attempt to move, the accountant alleged in his civil lawsuit. Following the attack, the supervisor of Santa Ana Jail sent a memo to staffers saying they needed to act more quickly when inmates complain of mistreatment, warning officers that "doing nothing about the situation is unacceptable," according to the claim. 

The accountant, who was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison, has been placed in another federal facility. Although the Santa Ana Jail is operated by the city, it houses federal inmates under contract. "Basically, this was a case of jail officials doing too little too late to help this guy," said his lawyer, Kenneth Miller. 

Santa Ana City Atty. Joseph W. Fletcher confirmed the city settled the case for about $95,000 but declined to comment further. A spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department also declined to comment. 

Rapes behind bars have received increasing attention from law enforcement officials in the last few years. Until recently, allegations of sexual assault in detention facilities across the nation received what critics considered scant attention, with authorities often writing off the cases as consensual sex. 

The accountant's experience began in early January, when he was placed in a cell with a man arrested on federal robbery charges. Here's what happened next, according to the claim filed against the city: 

Within a few days, the robbery suspect allegedly began to bully the accountant, ordering him around the cell, stealing his food and forcing him to pay off the cellmate's gambling debts. 

By mid-February, the accountant began to fear that his cellmate would harm him physically and passed a note to a guard asking for help. The man wrote the note on a medical request form, hoping that his cellmate wouldn't notice. But the guard confronted both inmates at once, asking what their "problem" was, according to the claim. The accountant denied any trouble, fearing that the cellmate would take revenge, he said. 

The next day, the cellmate allegedly pressured the accountant to get a "skinhead-type" haircut. When he refused, according to the claim, the cellmate replied: "You're getting beat up tonight." 

The accountant told his attorney of the problems, who convinced Judge Carter to order the man removed to another cell. 

That evening, he was placed back in the cell with his cellmate. As soon as he returned, the cellmate allegedly pushed him against the wall and told him that he knew the accountant had "ratted" him out, according to the claim. 

The accountant then called his girlfriend and urged her to contact the jail. She did, but was told by a jail officer that the man would not be moved without an order from the U.S. Marshal, according to the claim. 

At 11 p.m. the cellmate allegedly approached the man and began punching him in the ribs and chest and sexually assaulted him. 

The accountant was removed to another cell the next morning. His attorney, Miller, said the cellmate hasn't been charged with any crime related to the alleged confrontation. 

Miller said that within a few days of the incident, jail personnel got an e-mail from jail management stating: 

"This is to advise you that any time you receive any type of information in regards to any type of safety issues involving inmates and their housing locations, you need to take immediate action. It is irrelevant who we get the information from, the information needs to be looked into immediately and action taken to correct the situation and prevent any type of hazard to the individual's safety." 
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Lawsuit in deadly crash settled

By Ramon Coronado, Bee Staff Writer 
Published 1:06 p.m. PST Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2001 

A lawsuit filed after a fatal 1998 accident involving a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department transport van has been settled out of court for $1.3 million. 

The 1999 suit, initially filed against Sacramento County by one of two inmates injured in the crash, later mushroomed to include more than a dozen other defendants and plaintiffs represented by 19 law firms. 

Among the other defendants were various trucking firms, truck repair companies, an emergency freeway service, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol."Ten things had to go wrong at the same time in order for this accident to have happened the way it did," said Sacramento attorney Donald Masuda, who represented the driver of the sheriff's van, Deputy Susan Rosenberg, 53. 

According to the settlement, $750,000 went to the family of Deputy Sandra Larson, 48, who was killed in the crash. Inmate James Arthur Columbus Jr., 44, who suffered massive facial injuries, was paid $400,000, said the agreement finalized late last month.Larson, mother of a 16-year-old daughter and 13 year-old son, was active in the county deputy association for 18 years.  Columbus is serving 16 years and four months in Folsom Prison for multiple robbery counts. 

On Dec. 8, 1998, Rosenberg was returning from Soledad correctional facility to the Sacramento County jail about 3:30 p.m., transporting Columbus and inmate Robert William Fowler, 55, a convicted child molester.Rosenberg was northbound on Interstate 5 and tried to take the J Street exit. The disabled big-rig was parked in a "gore point," where an onramp merges into the primary lanes of a freeway.Larson, a 24-year sheriff's veteran, was in the front passenger seat when the van smashed into the rear of the stalled tractor-trailer rig. Larson was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Rosenberg suffered multiple fractures and a cut arm. She received $115,000 in the settlement.Columbus and Fowler, who were shackled, were thrown into a metal grate dividing the front and rear of the van.Fowler suffered a broken sternum, a sprained ankle and multiple soft tissue injuries. Early in the suit, Sacramento County paid Fowler $50,000, and he later received another $20,000 from the other defendants.Jerry D. Harter and Milton W. Zamboni, two mechanics working on the disabled big-rig, had minor injuries from the crash. Harter received $7,500. Zamboni was paid $12,500.Michael R. Loewen, an attorney for Columbus and Fowler, said the lawsuit mushroomed as more parties were found to be potentially liable, and some plaintiffs learned they were precluded from suing their employers under California law. 

According to court records, the tractor-trailer rig had experienced chronic mechanical difficulties the day before the accident. It was brought in for repairs but kept overheating.When the big-rig broke down, the driver turned on the emergency flashers and left to call for help. The CHP was notified by a freeway service patrol unit that several cars had almost struck the disabled truck, but a CHP officer told his dispatcher that it wasn't a hazard.Safety cones were placed alongside the truck to warn motorists but then were removed.Rosenberg was accused of making an unsafe lane change, but the District Attorney's Office cleared her, saying she acted no differently from how "any reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances." 

|||The Bee's Ramon Coronado can be reached at (916) 321-1191 or rcoronado@sacbee.com

Officer Violated Suspect's Rights, Panel Decides; Appeal: Sergeant who interrogated badly wounded man without a lawyer must pay monetary damages. 
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Nov 3, 2001; DARYL KELLEY; 

Words in Document: 774 

Buy Full Text 

The appeals panel found that [Ben Chavez] violated Martinez's constitutional rights by failing to tell the farm worker--who was paralyzed and blinded by his wounds but survived--of his right to an attorney before conducting a "coercive, custodial interrogation while [[Oliverio Martinez]] received treatment for life-threatening gunshot wounds inflicted by other police officers." 

"It was absolutely essential that Chavez get this man's dying ... 

Suit Is Filed Over Death of Man in Police Custody
El Monte: Chased down by officers, he allegedly put up a struggle and lost consciousness after being handcuffed. The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death. 
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Oct 30, 2001; MILTON CARRERO GALARZA; 

Tranquilino punched an officer several times in the face and escaped, running along a San Bernardino Freeway sound wall until he was confronted by another officer, [Gary Walker] said. He threw a cinder block at officers but missed, Walker said. 

[Stephen Yagman] alleged that, in the Tranquilino case, police stopped him because he was a relatively young Latino man. 

El Monte Police ... 

Lawsuit filed over prisoners' rights

October 19, 2001 
Two days after filing a legal claim in the case, an advocate of prisoners' rights filed a civil-rights lawsuit Thursday, alleging that Orange County officials unreasonably delay the freeing of inmates who are ordered released.The suit, filed on behalf of Fred Pierce of Anaheim, also alleges that inmates due to be released are strip-searched when they return to jail for processing.Laguna Beach attorney Richard P. Herman said he would seek to the have the suit certified 


Jail disturbance probed

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Investigation follows a claim that deputies beat inmates. 

February 4, 2000 
Byline: VIK JOLLY 


The Orange County Register 
The Orange County Sheriff's Department on Thursday launched an investigation into allegations that deputies beat nearly 50 inmates during a November disturbance at the Men's Central Jail. The probe was ordered hours after a Newport Beach attorney filed a $5 million claim alleging that deputies with batons and pepper spray hogtied and beat inmates. Eight inmates and a few deputies were treated at Western Medical Center Hospital Anaheim. The inmates' injuries 

 Ex-Guards Indicted in Beating of Inmate; Crime: 
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; 

According to the U.S. attorney's office, one of the officers allegedly goaded the attacker before escorting him into the detoxification cell for the beating. The second guard allegedly helped cover up the incident, which left 28-year-old Arrow Stowers of Huntington Beach badly bruised and bloodied. 

The U.S. attorney's office charged Javier Ferreira, 32, of Riverside with federal civil rights violations because. . . 


Ex-inmate sues in fondling case

By FRED LUDWIG, Californian staff writer 
e-mail:  fludwig@bakersfield
Tuesday August 07, 2001, 11:51:30 PM 

A woman allegedly fondled by a then-Kern County sheriff's deputy has filed suit against the county, saying officials failed to stop the deputy despite a pattern of such abuse by him. The county successfully prosecuted former Deputy Leo Dewayne Cheadle, who was sentenced in May to 10 months in jail for assault over his mistreatment of Sonja Webb while she was jailed at the Shafter courthouse. He was acquitted of sexual battery. 

At trial, the county District Attorney's Office noted several other female inmates had made accusations against Cheadle, including one complaint about two years before the abuse of Webb. Such issues now appear central to Webb's allegations of negligent county supervision of Cheadle. The suit also names Cheadle. 

County officials have not decided whether they will defend him in the suit, said Kern Chief Deputy County Counsel Bob Woods. Webb had made a $1 million claim against the county, which was denied last year. A claim must be submitted and then denied for a lawsuit against a county government can go forward. "We haven't found anything yet that would indicate the county is liable," Woods said. 

Webb's attorney could not be reached. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Woods said the county probably would not dispute that there was improper sexual contact, but that alone does not give the county legal responsibility for Cheadle's behavior. The investigation is looking at what county officials knew about Cheadle, Woods said. The previous complaint by the other woman is not necessarily a legal problem, Woods suggested. "The problem all law enforcement has is when people are arrested and jailed, they're not happy," Woods said. 

"Complaints come in by the bus load." The Californian normally does not name sexual assault victims, but Webb went public with her allegations.Webb's June 12 lawsuit alleges the abuse violated her constitutional rights and state civil codes. The suit states Webb suffered from loss of employment and medical bills but does not elaborate. It states she expects to continue to incur medical expenses. 

Published on August 16, 2001, 
West County Times (Richmond, CA) 


The mother of a County Jail inmate who hanged himself in the jail two years ago has settled a lawsuit against Contra Costa County for $365,000. 

The late prisoner's mother, Valerie Kentera of Walnut Creek, and other family members will receive $263,000 after legal fees, said the Kenteras' attorney, Stan Casper. 

Kentera sued on behalf of her homeless son, Kyle Kentera, 32, who had been in and out of County Jail 19 times, records showed. Kyle Kentera was incarcerated. . . 

Published on June 5, 2001, 
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA) 


The Los Angeles County Claims Board approved seven settlement offers Monday and gave preliminary approval to seven more, including the case of a Lakewood man who died after being hogtied by sheriff's deputies. 

The settlement offers, which could add up to $5 million, have been forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for final approval over the next two months. They include: 

* A recommendation to pay $1.1 million to the family of Victor Cox, a Lakewood man who died in September. 

Published on August 15, 2001, 
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA) 


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the county's largest legal settlement in history, agreeing Tuesday to pay $27 million to up to 400,000 former jail inmates who were held beyond their re- lease dates and improperly stripsearched. 

Although the class-action lawsuit only involves 62 plaintiffs who will receive between $2,000 to $30,000 each, attorneys expect to send notices to hundreds of thousands of other former inmates who may qualify for between $50 to $5,000. . . 

Published on August 16, 2001, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


The mother of a County Jail inmate who hanged himself in the jail two years ago has settled a lawsuit against Contra Costa County for $365,000. 

The late prisoner's mother, Valerie Kentera of Walnut Creek, and other family members will receive $263,000 after legal fees, said the Kenteras' attorney, Stan Casper. 

Kentera sued on behalf of her homeless son, Kyle Kentera, 32, who had been in and out of County Jail 19 times, records showed. Kyle Kentera was incarcerated 

Published on May 17, 2001, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


The Rampart Division scandal took a new twist with two national magazines publishing articles this week claiming a cadre of LAPD cops with ties to the criminal gangsta-rap underworld weren't fully investigated for possible roles in two superstar rappers' slayings and other crimes. 

The articles in Rolling Stone and The New Yorker suggest that top police and prosecutorial officials covered up or bungled the Rampart investigation at least in part to get closure of the scandal with the. . . 

Published on April 14, 2001, The Sacramento Bee 

Sutter paid $366,000 to settle assault lawsuit

A lawyer who sued had been attacked by his client at the county jail. 

The Sutter County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $366,000 to a lawyer who was attacked by his own client at the jail, according to information obtained by The Bee this week. 

The settlement reached last October went unreported until The Bee made a formal request Wednesday for details about the lawsuit Yuba City attorney Michael J. Sullinger filed against the county in May 2000. 

The Bee's written request cited state laws requiring local legislative bodies to disclose. . . 


County settles inmate claim: $50,000 paid in jail incident

By Denny Walsh 
Bee Staff Writer 
(Published April 24, 2000) 

Sacramento County has paid $50,000 to a man who has spent the last nine years rotating in and out of prison to settle his claim that he was beaten by sheriff's deputies while being temporarily held in the downtown jail. 

According to Capt. David Lind, staff services commander at the Sheriff's Department, the county chose to pay Troyd L. Ransom rather than contest his claim because he "had the good fortune of picking a fight with two deputies" who were later fired over the assault on another jail inmate."The sad thing for the taxpayers is that this was a defensible case, except that the deputies had compromised their credibility in another case that ended their careers," Lind said. "We don't like it any better than the taxpayers."Ransom, 40, who also uses Troy as a first name, is now incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy on a parole violation. 

A repeat drug offender, he first entered state prison in September 1991. He has returned seven times since then for parole violations, the most recent earlier this month.He was in the county's main jail on a parole hold in February 1999 when he mixed it up with Deputies Dan Berringer and Mark Celio, who were later fired over another incident in which an inmate was kicked in the groin so hard he lost his left testicle. The county compensated that inmate with $600,000.That incident occurred on June 4 and, within days, Celio was suspended in connection with the attack. Berringer was later suspended for lying about whether he saw what happened. 

The department ultimately concluded that Celio lied about his role in the attack. After an internal investigation, both were terminated.The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute them.Berringer worked for the department three years, Celio two years. Both are 29. Neither could be located for comment last week.The internal investigation had just commenced when Ransom filed his claim with the county on June 8. The county's claims administrator rejected it nine days later, and Ransom sued in federal court on Dec. 7. 

The suit was dismissed last week because the county paid Ransom.Ransom said in the suit that he verbally protested when Berringer shoved his head down during a strip search, at which point Berringer and Celio grabbed his arms and he pulled away. The deputies then handcuffed him, threw him against the cell wall head first, and repeatedly punched him, Ransom said in the suit.Berringer and Celio, along with other deputies, "continued to violently beat him ... to such an extent that he later needed medical treatment and was taken to San Joaquin County Hospital," where Sacramento County inmates are treated, the suit said."Throughout the incident, (Ransom) displayed immense restraint, as he did not fight back but only tried to cover his face to protect his mouth and teeth," the suit alleged. 

However, both Lind and the county's outside attorney, James Mirabell, depict Ransom as "185 pounds of solid muscle" derived from years of lifting weights, with a confrontational attitude typical of many who have spent a lot of time behind bars.Mirabell, a respected defense lawyer experienced in civil rights litigation, said the evidence is persuasive that Ransom provoked the physical altercation.Ransom's attorney did not return a reporter's calls. 

"It was strictly a fiscal decision," Lind said of the settlement. "His (Ransom's) injuries were minimal compared to what he was paid," the captain added.Mirabell made the point that while Berringer and Celio are discredited former employees, they are indemnified for their actions while deputies, so they would have required separate counsel paid for by the county. 

"I couldn't defend everybody when the county fired these two," the attorney said. "If it would cost $100,000 or more to try it, we might as well pay $50,000 and move on."Lind noted the mandate of federal civil rights law that a defendant pay the plaintiff's attorney in the event of a jury verdict for the plaintiff, no matter how small the award."The jury is never advised that, if it awards even $1, the plaintiff gets attorney's fees, which are often astronomical," he said. 

Published on July 16, 2000, 
The Orange County Register 

Lawyer has lock on hard cases

CRIME: Defender for jail inmates is known as a straight shooter. 

The clock on his desk is an hour behind. 

And his law diplomas are stained from being stored in an ex-wife's garage. 

Attorney Jonathan M. Slipp doesn't sweat the little things. 

A former air traffic controller, Slipp, 50, has the laid-back persona of one who made a career out of keeping cool. Even as a Boeing 737 was crash-landing on his shift. 

Now, Slipp has become a one-man thorn in the side of the Sheriff's Department. He is representing 40 jail. . . 

Published on June 19, 1998, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


The Los Angeles County Claims Board recommended paying out $2.8 million Thursday to settle 13 separate lawsuits brought against the county. 

The settlements included a $50,000 payment to two women who claimed they were sexually assaulted and raped by a deputy sheriff who was serving as a court bailiff. Both women were jail inmates who had been charged with attempted murder. Both women claimed the deputy forced them to engage in sexual acts with him while they were in jail lockup, located in a. . . 

Published on May 2, 1998, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


Los Angeles County should pay a convicted child molester $150,000 in damages because jailers allegedly ignored his cries for help as fellow inmates beat him, the county's lawyer recommended. 

The money would settle a claim by John Eric Chambers, 26, who said he suffered physical injury and emotional distress from the attack, county counsel wrote. 

The counsel ``took into consideration the nature of the offenses Chambers had been charged with, but on balance believed that under the. . . 

Published on August 30, 2001, 
The Orange County Register 

Ex-guards indicted over fight in city jail


The two defendants are former employees of a San Diego-based company hired to run the lockup in Seal Beach. 

Two civilian Seal Beach jail guards were indicted on federal charges Wednesday accusing them of staging a fight to silence an inmate who refused to be quiet, federal authorities said. 

The criminal civil-rights charges could signal an end to the relationship between the city of Seal Beach and Correctional Systems Inc. of San Diego, which has contracted to operate the city's 30-prisoner facility since 1994. 

Seal Beach police said they have begun exploring other options for. . . 


Published on March 5, 2000, Sacramento Bee 

Thirteen nights ago, Pocket-area resident Lisa Elias-Berg became Sacramento County jail inmate No. 1333728. 

Her first-ever experience behind bars, she said, was an eye-opener. 

It lasted 13 hours, and subjected her to "unbelievable" indignities, she said, including physical abuse by female deputies. She was never charged with a crime. 

A 42-year-old grandmother with a pristine home and a spotless record, Elias-Berg is still trying to make sense of it all."I thought, . . . 

Published on October 9, 1999, 
Press-Enterprise, The (Riverside, CA) 

More protesters allege brutality at West Valley Detention Center: 

Group holds rally outside Rancho Cucamonga jail


More accusations of brutality, corruption and neglect were lodged against deputies at the West Valley Detention Center on Friday during a tearful protest outside the Rancho Cucamonga facility. 

The protesters told of abuse that they or their loved ones allegedly endured in the jail, describing a cell filled with human waste and deputies who discharged pepper spray on the genitals of a nude, handcuffed man."You go in that place a human being and as soon as. . . 

Published on June 30, 1998, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Santa Clara County Jail inmate Victor Duran was the victim of a homicide while in custody, dying from asphyxiation and trauma to his neck, coroner's officials said Monday. 

The fatal injuries occurred within minutes of his May 28 death, said Dr. Massoud Vameghi, an assistant county medical examiner-coroner. That deadly trauma could have resulted from a choke hold, he added in an interview. When asked what else might explain the death, Vameghi said, ''God only. . . 


Brain-damaged youth awarded $3.5 million

Saturday, April 13, 2002 

Santa Clara County agreed to pay $3.5 million this week to the family of a San Jose youth whose 1998 suicide attempt left him unable to speak and confined to a bed. The youth, who was 14 at the time, tried to hang himself with a bed sheet while being held at the county Juvenile Hall on burglary and vandalism charges. By the time a guard discovered him, he had stopped breathing and suffered severe brain damage. 

After years of negotiations, the county agreed to the settlement. The boy's mother contended in her lawsuit that authorities did not treat her son's diagnosed mental illness adequately, among other things. The county, however, disputes those assertions. County Counsel Ann Ravel said the county did not admit any fault for the boy's vegetative state and settled only to avoid a lengthy trial. Compiled from Chronicle staff and wire reports. . . 


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