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LA Sheriff Lee Baca liable in inmate beating case, jury says

A jury has found L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca responsible in an inmate beating case. The ruling could cost him $100,000.
October 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A jury has found embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca responsible in an inmate beating case. The ruling could cost the sheriff $100,000 out of his own pocket.

Tyler Willis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Baca and four other sheriff's department officials after he was severely beaten at Men's Central Jail in 2009. A federal jury ruled in Willis's favor. Sheriff's officials call the verdict a huge mistake and say they will appeal.

"We're going to appeal it," said Steve Whitmore with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "We're in the process right now of doing post-trial motions and we are going to prevail in the appeal because it is a mistake, although we do respect juries, this one we believe made a blunder."

Willis' attorney argued the sheriff ignored warnings that the heavy flashlights used by deputies to control inmates could cause serious injuries.

"As the sheriff of Los Angeles County, he had the opportunity to control the things that were going on in the Men's Central Jail. He had an opportunity to see and understand that in 2007, there were 160 significant use of forces in the jail. In 2009, there were 258," said attorney Mark Pachowicz.

The jury decision follows repeated allegations of violence against inmates by deputies in Los Angeles County jails. Last year, a citizens' commission issued a report claiming Baca ignored numerous warnings.

The ruling is unusual, but not unheard of. In 1992, a jury found Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates liable in a police shooting case.

In that case, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay the $44,000 in damages.