Los Angeles Superior Court
Los Angeles County Superior Court. My News LA.com photo by John Schreiber.

Nearly 300 boys and girls were allegedly sexually assaulted, harassed and abused for decades by Los Angeles County probation and detention officers, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The 359-page lawsuit filed Dec. 20 alleges minor detainees at Los Angeles County juvenile camps and detention centers were abused during the time of their mandated detainment. Lawyers for the 279 plaintiffs say the county is being accused of failing hundreds of minors when it negligently decided to have a lack of adequate hiring policies to screen for potential sexual predators within its facilities, and for not providing appropriate training and supervision over their staff and employees.

The lawsuit also claims that while the plaintiffs were incarcerated, they were abused under the guise of “authority.” The allegations include grooming, unsupervised inmate access that led to verbal and physical abuse, and inadequate training of employees on proper standards. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Los Angeles County did not provide inmate minors with necessary supervision to keep them safe from harm.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that the pandemic multiple-decade long abuse of these minor victims within the exclusive control of Los Angeles County’s juvenile detention system were allowed to run its course for as long as they did with no consequences or recourse,” said Doug Rochen, partner at ACTS Law, which filed the lawsuit. “The irreversible trauma, suffering, and emotional and physical abuse that these children underwent will be a lifelong struggle that they will live with forever. The county should be held responsible for the predatory behavior of these officers and county officials they hired, failed to properly vet, and failed to properly train.”

The alleged assaults occurred between the 1970s and 2018 and happened at Camp Scott and Camp Kenyon Scudder, both girls facilities, and Challenger Memorial Youth Center, the Los Padrinos, Central and Barry J. Nidorf juvenile halls, according to the Los Angeles Times.

County officials did not respond to the Times for a request for comment.

In an email provided by ACTS Law to City News Service, the lawsuit includes examples of the alleged abuse some of the plaintiffs experienced.

In one instance, a then 16-year-old boy alleges that a deputy probation officer initially brought him snacks to his cell at night and engaged in conversation when nobody was around in an attempt to groom him. On three separate occasions the minor was sexually abused and harassed within his cell.

In another instance, a then 13-year-old girl alleges that she was sexually abused and harassed by a group of deputy probation officers while she was alone brushing her teeth one night. They promised “extra food and extra privileges” if she willingly allowed them to touch her. When she failed to comply she was restrained, then brutally and painfully raped.

A then 17-year-old boy says on more than 10 separate occasions a deputy probation officer sexually abused and harassed him. The officer would enter his cell at night, bring him alcohol to get him drunk, and sodomize him.

In more than 10 separate instances, a then 16-year-old girl was sexually abused, groped, and harassed within her cell by a deputy probation officer. The officer would isolate the girl in the dorms alone at night and would threaten her by saying that she would “get more time if she said anything” about the abuse.

A then 12-year-old boy alleges he was sexually abused and harassed until he was 14 by a deputy probation officer in secluded locations on multiple occasions. The officer would drop $100 bills or snacks down the boy’s pants in the form of “games” and then proceed to abuse him sexually.

“Imagine being a young, incarcerated teenager being sexually abused,” Rochen said. “What access to justice did these kids have? What options were available to them? And who would have believed their cries for help even if they said something let alone being threatened with violence or further incarceration if they spoke up?”

The lawsuit was filed at time when a window was created by a 2020 state law that opened a three-year period for individuals to sue over sexual abuse claims from decades ago, and effectively pauses California’s statutes of limitations and providing an opportunity to file suits for civil damages. After 2022, suits can be filed if the alleged incidents are less than 40 years old or if it has been five years since plaintiffs encountered psychological effects from alleged past sexual abuse.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn told the Times the accusations are “stomach-turning.”

“The officers responsible for this abuse need to be held accountable,” she told the Times. “They have no business working for the county, and they should face criminal charges.”

A hearing that would allow accusers to testify anonymously was being planned by the county Probation Oversight Commission before the lawsuit was filed.

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