A federal grand jury on Thursday returned a four-count indictment against 26-year-old Joey Aguiar and 38-year-old Mariano Ramirez.
The indictment alleges that Aguiar and Ramirez illegally used force against the victim on Feb. 11, 2009, as he was handcuffed and secured with a waist chain. The deputies allegedly punched and kicked the inmate, used pepper spray on him, and struck him with a flashlight.
According to the indictment, the deputies then wrote false reports to cover up the beating. They allegedly made false claims that the inmate tried to "head butt" Aguiar's face and violently kicked at the deputies.
The indictment charges both defendants with conspiring to violate civil rights and with deprivation of rights under color of law that caused bodily injury. They are also charged with falsification of records. Both men are expected to be arraigned on March 6.
The allegations came to light in 2011 after the American Civil Liberties Union interviewed a jail chaplain who testified that he witnessed the beating. In a videotaped interview with the ACLU, Chaplain Paulino Juarez said he saw the handcuffed inmate lying in a pool of blood.
The ACLU says the indictments are further proof of a sheriff's department in dire need of reform.
"In this case, knowing the chaplain, I think the federal government has gotten this right, and the sheriff's department clearly got this wrong," said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California.
The sheriff's department investigated the alleged beating in 2012, but by the time the results were sent to prosecutors, the statute of limitations had already expired. The federal statute of limitations expires this month.
"The process needs to take place. It's an indictment, not a conviction," said Capt. Mike Parker, a sheriff's department spokesman. "This case dates back to 2009 and many positive changes have taken place."
Eyewitness News was scheduled for a sit-down interview with Interim Sheriff John Scott on Friday. But the interview was canceled when the sheriff got word of the indictments. Scott took over the department last week after longtime sheriff Lee Baca retired.
"The sheriff welcomes oversight and he is very focused on the department moving forward," said Parker.
Baca's resignation came a few weeks after 18 current and former deputy sheriffs were arrested and charged with obstructing justice, inmate abuse and corruption. The federal government's investigation into the department remains active.