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Deputies Reverse Story On Beating Of Jail Visitor

Men's Central Jail (Photo by eyetwist via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Two L.A. County Sheriff's Department deputies have now changed their stories about the violent beating of a jail visitor, admitting that the man was handcuffed and not resisting arrest as he was held to the ground and beaten.

The two deputies—who along with three colleagues are accused of the 2011 beating of Gabriel Carrillo—have now pleaded guilty and broken ranks just before the trial for the incident is set to begin, the L.A. Times reports. The revised accounts come as a dramatic change to years of denial that deputies beat a handcuffed Carrillo, who was visiting his brother in Los Angeles County Jail. Up until now, the five accused deputies have claimed Carrillo fought with them in a waiting area, and have continually denied his accusations that he was handcuffed and then beaten.

Deputies Noel Womack and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge struck a deal with prosecutors that may result in them testifying against the other deputies, while also avoiding potentially lengthy prison sentences. Womack pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to F.B.I. agents when he said he didn't know if Carrillo was handcuffed during the incident. Earlier this year, Zunggeemoge also submitted a guilty plea to allegations of abuse and dishonesty, but the details are sealed until the trial, which is set to begin June 16. The grand jury indictment also accuses deputies Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano, along with Sergeant Eric Gonzalez—considered by prosecutors as the ringleader—of civil rights abuses.

The two guilty pleas also significantly mark the first time in two decades that a sheriff's deputy has been convicted in a federal court of using excessive force, according to the U.S. attorney's office. And the case notably follows last year's guilty convictions of sheriff's officials who were accused of obstructing an F.B.I. investigation into the abuse of inmates in county jails. It's also rare to see a break in solidarity among law enforcement officials, especially in an institution known for coordinating cover-ups of jail beatings.