the takedown

8 Years for Former LA Sheriff’s Dept. Sergeant for Beating Jail Visitor

This week, a former sergeant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), who was previously found guilty of federal civil rights offenses, was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison.

Eric Gonzalez, a 12-year veteran of the LASD at the time of the offense, was one of three former deputies found guilty this June of civil rights charges related to the beating of a handcuffed visitor to the Men’s Central Jail.

U.S. District Judge George H. King of the Central District of California said that Gonzalez “abused his authority and corrupted the very system he was sworn to uphold.”

At trial, a jury determined Gonzalez, as well as former LASD Deputies Fernando Luviano and Sussie Ayala, violated the civil rights of the victim in 2011 when they beat the man and caused bodily injury. The jury found all three defendants falsified records when they prepared reports claiming the victim was not handcuffed during the incident. Gonzalez and Ayala were also convicted of conspiring to violate the victim’s civil rights by using unreasonable force.

According to a sentencing memo filed by the prosecutors, Gonzalez was the leader of the conspiracy to violate the victim’s civil rights. “While [the victim] may have suffered the bruises and cuts, the negative impact of defendant Gonzalez’s actions does not end with [the victim], nor is [he] the only victim.  The actions undertaken by the defendants in this case have impacted the public trust and thus extend beyond [the victim] and his family.”

“Today’s lengthy prison sentence demonstrates that individuals who abuse their positions of trust as law enforcement officers will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California.  “The former deputy sheriffs who participated in the scheme to violate the civil rights of a handcuffed man who was beaten without cause cast a stain on the entire sheriff’s department, where virtually all of the deputies serve admirably.”

Gonzalez is among several other deputies who have also been indicted as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities in downtown Los Angeles. To date, fifteen current or former members of the LASD have been convicted of federal charges.

“Mr. Gonzalez's actions cast a pall on his department and dishonored the badge he wore for many years,” said Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.  “We must be vigilant when it comes to abuse-of-power allegations, and prosecute them when warranted.  However, we should also recognize and respect those who wear the badge with pride and serve Los Angeles County honorably.”

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