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The Most Shocking Allegations To Come Out Of The FBI Crackdown On L.A. Sheriff's Department

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The FBI announced this afternoon that it was going after eighteen current and former officials of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The charges revealed today paint a grim picture of what's going on at the county jail. Inmates were abused. People who tried to visit the prisons ended up finding themselves being locked up themselves under phony charges—or no charges whatsoever. Deputies made up reports to cover their tracks, and their coworkers helped them with the cover-up.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca isn't named as one of the defendants, but he doesn't come off looking good. This wasn't just a matter of a few bad apples. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. said in a statement, "The five cases allege a wide scope of illegal conduct. This investigation started by focusing on misconduct in county jails, and we uncovered examples of civil rights violations that included excessive force and unlawful arrests."

Here are some of the most shocking stories:

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  • An Austrian consul general and her husband were handcuffed and unlawfully detained by deputies when she tried to visit an Austrian inmate at the jail. She was immune from arrest and prosecution since her actions were a part of her official duties.
  • One visitor was falsely accused of resisting an executive officer and disturbing the peace on July 31, 2010. Deputy Noel Womack allegedly placed the visitor's arm in such a position that it ended up being fractured. He handcuffed the visitor, brought him to an employee break room and shoved him against a refrigerator. The visitor ended up being cut up on his nose and face. He was kept five days at the jail without ever being charged.
  • Deputies Fernando Luviano and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge are accused of roughing up the brother of an inmate who had come to visit and broke a rule about bringing cell phones in. (He ended up looking like this.) The visitor, Gabriel Carillo, was handcuffed and beaten by the two deputies. Carillo was originally charged with battery on the deputies, but his charges were almost immediately dropped, the L.A. Times reports. (He, too, was shoved up against a refrigerator, according to the indictment.)
  • Deputies Bryan Brunsting and Jason Branum are accused of choking an inmate at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, which is across the street from Men's Central Jail, and filing false reports to cover it up, according to CNS. Brunsting was also the commanding officer who ordered the beating of the mentally ill inmate in 2011, the Times reports.
  • We already wrote about the case of Anthony Brown, a lifer at the jail who was secretly given a cell phone by FBI agents to gather information on excessive force at the jail. When the phone was found, the jailers are accused of hiding Brown, changing his name and removing him from the jail database, all in an effort to throw off the FBI's case. Some of the deputies in that group actually confronted the FBI Special Agent and threatened to arrest her, WitnessLA reports.

Altogether seven officials are facing charges of civil rights violations, seven more are facing obstruction of justice charges, four are charged with making false statements and ten are facing conspiracy charges. The probe was launched in 2011 after a series of reports regarding widespread brutality at the Men's Central Jail by jail employees aimed at inmates. In one case, a promising rookie jailer resigned after only a few weeks on the job because he said he was forced to beat a mentally ill inmate.

All of the charges revealed today represent the culture of corruption that has permeated throughout the department for years. Sheriff Lee Baca responded to today's arrests, saying:


While the indictments were not unexpected, it is nevertheless a sad day for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. We do not tolerate misconduct by any deputies. This department is grounded in its core values, namely to honorably perform our duties with respect for the dignity of all people, and integrity to do right and fight wrongs. We have cooperated fully with the federal investigation and will continue to do so. Please know that I respect the criminal justice system. No one is above the law.

WitnessLA is offering a different take, alleging that Baca and Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka signed off on hiding Anthony Brown from federal agents.

Related:
Dozens of L.A. Sheriff's Officials Expected To Be Arrested After Hiding FBI Informant [UPDATED]