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Above the Law

DA Will Not Prosecute Sheriff's Deputies Accused in Christmas Brawl

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Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 11:27 AM
click to enlarge MCJ_photo.jpg

The alleged gang of sheriff's deputies from Men's Central Jail accused of beating up fellow officers at a Christmas party last December in Montebello have dodged a major legal bullet.

District Attorney Steve Cooley's office will not prosecute them.

Revelations, including that one of the alleged victims admitted throwing the first punch, have led prosecutors to determine the case is simply too weak.

According to a memo from the DA's office, obtained by the LA Times, "Based on the evidence presented, we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the deputies in the ... incident committed any unjustifiable criminal act."

News of the December 10 brawl spread like wildfire when it came out that some of the accused deputies from the third floor of MCJ were supposedly throwing gang-signs, causing some to speculate that there were potentially violent gangs of deputies forming in the jails.

The DA's office looked into eight deputies accused of attacking three other deputies at the party. But one by one, the claims of each of the alleged victims were dismissed by prosecutors.

In one case, states the memo, a male deputy who claimed he was beaten later admitted that he threw the first punch, which "would certainly raise the defense of self-defense."

In another case, a female deputy first reported that she was hit on the chin 10 days after the fight, and "there were no witnesses who were able to identify the aggressor or the victim," states the DA's memo.

And as for the third alleged victim, according to the memo, "There is insufficient evidence to prove that [the deputy] was assaulted," as the officer "claimed to have no recollection of the event."

In March, the sheriff's department began termination proceedings against six deputies. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore has said that the DA's decision not to prosecute does not impact the sheriff's department internal investigation, which is ongoing.

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