LASD Sheriff Lee Baca has been found to be personally liable for instances of inmate abuse that took place at the LA County Jail.
This, according to sources close to the case, means Baca may need to shell out upward of $100,000 of his own monies in order to settle the case. The LASD is reportedly appalled by the decision and have said they intend to appeal the ruling.
The Department further notes this is the first time a Sheriff has been held personally liable in this type of case.
The case originated in late 2010 after a Men’s Central Jail inmate filed a lawsuit against the LASD. That detainee, Tyler Willis, said he was beaten severely while he was behind bars waiting to to have his legal matters decided by a judge.
Court records show the plaintiff alleged he was beaten, shot with a Tazer and was hit on multiple occasions with a heavy flashlight. The deputies named in the suit included Pedro Gurrero Mark Farino, Anthony Vazquez and Capt. Daniel Cruz.
Baca was also named, with the plaintiff’s attorney citing the Sheriff should have ensured this type of violence should have never happened in the first place.
Last week, a jury awarded Willis $165,000 in damages, The defendants have since decided to split the damages, with Baca having agreed to pay $100,00o out of his own pocket.
Willis’ attorney alleged the LASD had long been aware that deputies were engaging in inappropriate conduct, and that the sheriff had not listened to warnings that deputy-on-inmate abuse were running rampant.
A finding by a citizen’s commission was also submitted into evidence. They found that Baca had not taken the proper steps to remedy excessive uses of force.
Willis’ attorney believes the ruling was fair, and feels that the fact that this was taken ‘all the way to the top’ speaks volumes.
The LASD has not released any formal comment with regard to the ruling, having only said they intend to appeal.
Legal experts say this is not the first time that the leader of a law enforcement agency has been found liable for the actions of their employees. A LAPD Chief was ordered to pay more than $44,00o in damages in a similar suit in the early 1990s.
In that instance, although the LAPD Chief was ordered to pay about half of the damages, the City Council ultimately decided to pick up the tab.
The LASD has not said when they intend to file the appeal, although it is expected to come in the near future.