18 LA Sheriff’s Dept. officials charged with corruption, civil rights abuses

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Charges of civil rights abuses and obstruction of justice have been filed against 18 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. In a press conference, United States Attorney in Los Angeles André Birotte Jr. ran down a list of alleged crimes, including beatings, detentions and and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation at the Men’s Central Jail.

The wide ranging investigation included unlawful arrests and excessive beatings of visitors to the jails (not just the inmates), including the Consul General of Austria visiting an Austrian national in jail.

Birotte said that the investigation found that the misconduct was institutionalized:

 “The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of cooperating with the federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that light would not shine on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights.”

The LA Times has a copy of the indictment, which you can read here. 

This raises “very serious concerns about the ability of that department to continue to operate effectively” Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Los Angeles County’s Citizens’ Jail Commission on Jail Violence told KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis. Here the full interview here:

Speaking to the press, Sheriff Lee Baca responded to the indictment. “Please know that I respect the criminal justice system and no one is above the law,” he said. Responding to the assertion that there’s an institutional problem with the jail, Sheriff Baca said, “there is no institutional problem with in the Sheriff’s department when it comes to correcting itself.”

These indictments come after months of scrutiny into abuse allegations at county jails, and will likely have an impact on Sheriff Baca’s efforts to seek a fourth term in office. Kevin Roderick, editor of LA Observed, joined Chiotakis to discuss that aspect of the story: