LOS ANGELES (KABC) --The beating of a former inmate at Men's Central Jail took center stage on Tuesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom as opening statements began in the trial against two Los Angeles County deputies.
Speaking out through the ACLU, the allegations of Deacon Paulino Juarez were now the cornerstone of this federal case alleging brutality and corruption at the jail.
"I hear somebody was screaming...and I see these three deputies beating this person," Juarez said.
The U.S. attorney told a jury that two deputies, Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez, conspired to beat an inmate, falsified reports and, with others at the jail, engaged in a cover-up.
In addition to the criminal charges, the inmate, Bret Phillips, was suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The criminal case alleges that Phillips threw a milk carton at one of the deputies who then sought revenge. Later, Phillips had been handcuffed and shackled, a regular procedure for inmates in his unit who are being moved.
In the words of prosecutor Jennifer Williams: "Bam! His head was smashed into a concrete wall. He fell to the ground, unable to catch himself."
It's a scenario described by the chaplain, who had been hidden from the deputies' view in a nearby cell.
"He, just, was saying, 'Stop, please stop, I did nothing wrong,'" he said.
The defense team for the deputies raised questions about the chaplain's memory and how much he really saw. The defense stressed that the incident happened in a unit of the jail where they house the most violent inmates.
Defense attorney Evan Jenness told the jury that use of force was inevitable, necessary, and in this case, entirely appropriate. Jenness went on to say Aguiar was head-butted by the inmate, and that a video taken soon after the incident shows that there was no pool of blood as testified by the chaplain, nor was the inmate unconscious.
The prosecution asserted the blood was quickly cleaned up by jail trusties who were too afraid to dispute the deputies' account. The sheriff's department conducted two investigations of the incident from seven years ago and found no wrong-doing.
The chaplain was expected to take the stand on Wednesday. The trial is only the latest in the federal probe that has seen 15 deputies convicted or pleading guilty to various charges.