by Andrew Emett
December 1, 2015
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Former L.A. deputies and a sergeant face criminal charges in the case of Gabriel Carrillo, a man unjustly beaten after attempting to visit his brother in prison. Several of those charged face prison time.
Two former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were sentenced to prison on Monday after their colleagues testified against them for viciously beating the handcuffed brother of an inmate unconscious and attempting to cover up the abuse. Their sergeant was sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this month for violating the jail visitor’s civil rights and ordering his deputies to falsify their arrest reports.
On February 26, 2011, Gabriel Carrillo attempted to visit his brother, who was an inmate at Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in Downtown Los Angeles. When Deputy Sussie Ayala discovered that Carrillo’s then-girlfriend, Griselda Torres, had brought a cellphone into the facility, Torres admitted that both she and Carrillo had their cellphones on them. After confirming that he did have a phone, Carrillo asked Deputy Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, “What are you going to do, arrest me?”
According to Zunggeemoge’s testimony, the deputy cuffed Carrillo’s hands behind his back and escorted him to a nearby break room, while Deputy Ayala placed Torres in handcuffs and followed them. Zunggeemoge slammed Carrillo into a refrigerator before patting him down and lifting his cuffed arms in order to inflict more pain. As Carrillo continued to mouth off to the deputies, Ayala called for backup on her radio.
When deputies Fernando Luviano, Noel Womack, and Sgt. Eric Gonzalez arrived, Zunggeemoge left the room to run Carrillo’s name through a criminal database. Zunggeemoge returned to find Luviano roughing up Carrillo. Instead of de-escalating the violence, Zunggeemoge rushed into the room and helped Luviano smash Carrillo’s face against the ground.
After losing consciousness, Carrillo awoke to find Luviano and Zunggeemoge repeatedly punching and kicking him in the face, back, and legs as the other deputies watched. Carrillo developed trouble breathing after Luviano pepper-sprayed him in the face. Instead of administering medical treatment, Zunggeemoge punched Carrillo twice in the face.
Following the incident, Sgt. Gonzalez ordered Zunggeemoge and the other deputies to write false statements in their reports accusing Carrillo of attacking them while only one of his hands was cuffed during fingerprinting. In their incident reports, Gonzalez and his deputies falsely asserted that Carrillo had attempted to take a swing at them with his free hand, resulting in the deputies using force to restrain him.
But according to testimony from deputies Zunggeemoge and Womack, Carrillo’s hands were cuffed behind his back throughout the entire incident. Photographs taken by Torres, who is now married to Carrillo, revealed deep bruises around both of his wrists after the beating. Carrillo was charged with assaulting the deputies, but the district attorney later dropped the charges against him. The county ended up paying Carrillo $1.2 million to settle a civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
On December 9, 2013, the Justice Department unsealed five criminal cases against 18 Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies charged with illegally beating inmates and obstructing justice. Included in those indictments were criminal charges against former deputies Sussie Ayala, Fernando Luviano, Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, Noel Womack, and Sgt. Eric Gonzalez. The deputies were charged with civil rights violations and covering up their use of unjustified force.
Earlier this year, Zunggeemoge pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and deprivation of rights after finally admitting that Carrillo had been handcuffed during the entire beating. He faces up to two years in prison.
In May, Womack confessed to going along with the fabricated story for four years and lying to FBI agents investigating the incident. Womack pleaded guilty to a felony charge of lying to federal officials and faces up to five years in prison. According to their plea agreements, both Womack and Zunggeemoge are barred from returning to law enforcement.
Along with Womack and Zunggeemoge, deputies Ayala and Luviano were relieved of duty without pay in January 2014. Gonzalez left the department in May 2013. On June 24, Gonzalez, Ayala, and Luviano were convicted of violating Carrillo’s civil rights and writing false reports to cover up the jail beating.
Earlier this month, Gonzalez was sentenced to eight years in prison for his failure in leadership. After determining that Ayala had instigated the chain of events, U.S. District Judge George King sentenced her to six years in prison on Monday. Immediately following Ayala’s sentencing, Judge King ordered Luviano to serve seven years in prison.
In October, a federal grand jury indicted a sixth deputy in relation to the jail beating. On October 30, former Deputy Byron Dredd pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to violate civil rights and two counts of making false reports. Dredd has been ordered to stand trial on December 22.