18 current and former officers from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department have been charged with abusing inmates and visitors to the city's county jails and with obstructing an FBI investigation.
Four grand jury indictments and one criminal complaint came to light this morning following the arrest of 16 of the 18 defendants; most were taken into custody at the Sheriff’s Department building. The group includes a lieutenant, a sergeant, and lower-ranking deputies. Sheriff Lee Baca has not been charged with any wrongdoing at this time.
“Some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the laws,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said at a press conference this afternoon. “Instead of cooperating with a 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 the federal government would not shine light on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights.”
According to KTLA, the 18 officers have been accused of civil rights abuses and improper detentions of inmates and guests in the country’s largest county jail system. For instance, a man who came to visit one inmate was allegedly beaten and put into a refrigerator in the jail’s break room. He was then locked up for five days despite not being charged with a crime, Birotte said.
The defendants are also accused of hindering an FBI investigation, one that set out to expose the kind of corruption they allegedly engaged in within the system. Birotte told the press that certain deputies moved an FBI informant into an isolated part of the jail, told him that federal investigators were no longer interested in him and then faked documents to show that he had been released.
An FBI informant supplied authorities with photos from inside the Men’s Central Jail as well as the names of certain deputies involved in the misconduct. While questions are being asked about the informant’s reliability—he has reportedly confessed to bank robberies, cocaine use, and occasional lying—the details he provided led to today’s charges and the ongoing investigation.