Four people who worked as county probation officers were acquitted Tuesday of criminal charges stemming from either the use of pepper spray at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey or the ensuing decontamination process.
Jurors deliberated less than a day before acquitting La Cour Harrison, 54, of one misdemeanor count of assault by a public officer and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a child by endangering health, and acquitting Claudette Reynolds, 57, of one misdemeanor count each of assault by a public officer and cruelty to a child endangering health.
Co-defendants Maria Asuzena Guerrero, 29, and Karnesha Marshall, 28, were each acquitted of one misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child by endangering health.
Attorneys for Harrison and Reynolds argued that the use of pepper spray during an April 8, 2018, interaction with a teenage girl was lawful and necessary.
Harrison was also charged along with Marshall in a second incident involving the July 1, 2018, decontamination process of a separate girl on whom pepper spray had been used.
Harrison’s attorney, Tom Yu, said the probation officers’ “careers were ruined by the mere allegations” of wrongdoing, and said the verdict was a “liberating moment for him (Harrison) to clear his name.”
Defense attorney Rondee Jenee Eagle, who represented Reynolds, said, “I don’t think the charges should have been filed to begin with.”
Two other people who worked for the probation department — Marlene Rochelle Wilson, 47, and Janeth Vilchez, 49 — are still awaiting a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require them to stand trial in a separate case stemming from the use of pepper spray at the juvenile facility.
Vilchez’s attorney, Bill Seki, said he plans to ask the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to reconsider that case and consider dismissing the charges against his client.
The status of the six employees with the Los Angeles County Probation Department was not immediately clear.