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LA County sheriff's deputies face civil rights charges

The indictments are the latest in a long-running investigation by the FBI.
Prison bars on Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo by Reed Saxon/AP)
Prison bars on Oct. 3, 2012.

Two LA County sheriff's deputies were indicted on civil rights charges Thursday for allegedly beating a prisoner while he was handcuffed and then covering up their actions with false reports.

Joey Aguilar and Mariano Ramirez are accused of punching and kicking an inmate who was handcuffed and restrained with a waist chain, as well as using pepper spray against him. Aguilar and Ramirez later filed reports claiming that the victim had attacked first.

The indictments are far from the first to hit the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Twenty current and former deputies have been charged with civil rights violations and corruption. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation, which is still ongoing.

The new indictments came as no surprise to civil rights advocates. “The ACLU Foundation of Southern California has led the way in exposing the corruption and abuse of power in the Los Angeles County Jails,” Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement Friday. “We shed much-needed light on the plague of beatings in a scathing report issued in 2011. That report contained affidavits from more than 70 witnesses, which included civilians and Chaplin Paulino Juarez, who witnessed the savage beatings of inmates.”

Eighteen current or former deputies were indicted in December in five criminal cases for offenses ranging from obstructing a federal investigation to beating inmates and visitors. All of those indicted have pleaded not guilty.

Speaking of the new charges against the deputies, interim Sheriff John Scott promised to continue working to reform the jail system. "Although today's indictment should not be taken as a reflection of the outstanding work that the overwhelming majority of deputies perform every day, it does underscore that everyone in this department should and will be held accountable for their actions," he said in a statement. "Abuse of authority will not be tolerated."

Aguilar and Ramirez will appear in federal court for arraignments on March 6.