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Ex-Deputy Says He Was Trained To Beat Up Inmates Then Cover It Up

Men's Central Jail (Photo by Matthew Logelin via the LAist Featured Photos Pool on Flickr)
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A former deputy revealed the horrific details of how he and other guards abused inmates at L.A. County jails and worked together to cover up the brutality.

Gilbert Michel, 40, told a courtroom on Tuesday that he learned "on the job" as an L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. deputy to use excessive force, beat inmates unprovoked and shoot them with a Taser gun, according to the L.A. Times. He and other jail guards would make sure they all had the same accounts of what happened and then write falsified reports so it would justify their actions.

And it sounded like the inmates were completely helpless in the jails. If they wanted to report the abuse and drop off a note in a complaint box, Michel said that the complaints "wouldn't go anywhere" because the guards were the ones who had access to the box.

In one situation where Michel felt disrespected by an inmate who refused to answer Michel's routine questioning, he shoved the inmate's face into a wall and later wrote up a bogus report. According to the Times:

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Michel and the other deputy fought the inmate and eventually handcuffed him, then the other deputy sprayed the inmate with pepper spray, he said. They took the inmate to the clinic for his injuries, then Michel wrote up a report in which he made up a claim that he had seen the inmate passing drugs through the bars, and that the inmate had called him a homophobic slur during the search.

Michel testified in the case involving six sheriff's officers who were accused of impeding a federal civil rights investigation into accusations that there was excessive force being used at L.A. County jails.

Michel, who has since resigned from his position, was charged after he accepted a bribe from a person he didn't realize was an undercover FBI agent to smuggle in a cell phone to an inmate in the summer of 2011. That inmate cooperating with the FBI, Anthony Brown, would later send the FBI details and photos of excessive force used in the Men's Central Jail as part of their two-year investigation.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Lizabeth Rhodes told jurors last week that once deputies discovered the cell phone during a routine search and that it was part of an FBI investigation, they worked hard to keep Brown away from his FBI handlers now that his cover was blown. She also said that sheriff's officials told Michel not to cooperate with the FBI, and that he had been manipulated and blackmailed.

Michel pleaded guilty in 2012 to one count of bribery and agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors, and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, he hasn't been charged for excessive force.

Men's Central Jail has a long history of excessive force and brutality. Guards severely beat up a man who was visiting his brother in jail in 2011 because he brought in a cell phone. Another inmate died two days after a deputy punched him in his head in a jail cell that same year.