Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

 

Jury deliberations resumed Monday  in the trial of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies facing civil rights charges for allegedly assaulting a handcuffed inmate and lying on official reports to cover it up.

A four-count indictment charges jail deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez with kicking then-inmate Bret Phillips in the head and upper body, striking him with a flashlight, pepper-spraying him in the face and then hiding their actions in reports that could have been used to prosecute the inmate for assaulting the deputies.

The jury began deliberating late Friday afternoon.

The Feb. 11, 2009, incident at Men’s Central Jail was allegedly witnessed by a jail chaplain and an inmate, both of whom testified during the eight-day trial in Los Angeles federal court. Closing arguments concluded late Friday and the jury deliberated for about two hours before adjourning home for the weekend.

The prosecution contends that Aguiar and Ramirez set upon Phillips in a gang-style beat-down as retribution for showing disrespect. Defense lawyers counter that Phillips was combative and threatening, and the lawmen did only what was legally required to gain control of an unruly inmate.

“What they did was beat a man and they used their badge to do it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams told the panel. “And now they’re trying to use that badge to get away with it. Do not let them.”

But according to the defense, Phillips sparked the run-in as he was being escorted back to his cell after a medical appointment.

As he was brought down a hallway, his hands cuffed to a waist chain, Phillips swore at Aguiar — then a 21-year-old rookie — refused to follow orders and attempted to head-butt the officer, defense attorney Evan Jenness told the panel Friday.

“Restrained punches” were used only to “gain control of a recalcitrant inmate in trying to get him back to his cell,” she said.

The force, she said, was “appropriate” and “proportionate” to Phillips’ behavior

—City News Service

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