Two San Francisco sheriff’s deputies and one former sheriff’s deputy have been charged after allegations surfaced that the deputies forced two mismatched inmates fight each other while the deputies watched, according to the San Francisco District Attorney and the FBI.
Allegedly, when the two inmates initially refused to fight each other, former deputy Scott Neu “threatened to handcuff them, beat them and douse them with Mace or shock them with a Taser,” District Attorney George Gascon told The Huffington Post.
The fights happened two consecutive days in March 2015. The smaller of the two inmates, Ricardo Palikiko Garcia, believed he received a fractured rib after the fight.
“These are serious crimes that damage the moral authority of law enforcement,” Gascon said in a statement. “Subjecting inmates who are in the care and custody of the state to degrading and inhumane treatment makes a mockery of our justice system and undermines any efforts towards rehabilitation.”
Other reports came in that Neu and the other deputies “forced an inmate to do pushups against his will and made others gamble in order to receive food, clean clothes and bedding.”
"It appears the culture in the jail combined with a lack of a comprehensive surveillance system allowed sadistic bullies to flourish," public defender Jeff Adachi said Tuesday in a statement. "I remain deeply concerned [about] a jail environment that allows abuse to fester and in-custody deaths to continue unabated."
Adachi said that he believes better surveillance will prevent further abuse from happening.
Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who took office in January, said that she wants to implement change. “The vast majority of people who work here work hard under difficult conditions. We want to make sure that everyone is held accountable for good or bad.”
She said that some of the deputies went years without their annual performance reviews, and believes that the oversight is part of the reason that this abuse was able to happen. She’s hoping to find funding for an ombudsman for the department and to purchase body cameras for guards.
The attorney for the union that is handling the deputy’s case, Harry Stern, told the Associated Press that the reports of abuse are “exaggerated,” and that the alleged gladiator-style fight club amounted to “little more than horseplay.”
Neu, the alleged ringleader of the fights and abuse, has already had his reputation called into question when inmates accused him of forcing them to perform sexual acts on him, but that case was settled outside of court.
This time, Neu has been charged with 17 counts of assault by officer under color of authority and four felony counts of criminal threats. If he is convicted, he is looking at upwards of 10 years in state prison.
Deputy Eugene Jones was charged with two counts of assault by officer under color of authority and three misdemeanors. He allegedly ordered the inmates to fight the second time and “watched it for his amusement.” He could serve more than five years if he is convicted.
Deputy Clifford Chiba, allegedly one of the spectators of the fights, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruel and unusual punishment and one count of willful omission to perform official duty. If convicted, he could be looking at an 18-month sentence.
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