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Los Angeles deputies break ranks to admit beating of jail visitor

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Two Los Angeles county sheriff’s deputies who are accused with three colleagues over the beating of a jail visitor have broken ranks on the eve of a trial and pleaded guilty.

Noel Womack and Pantamitr Zunggeemoge struck a deal with prosecutors which could see them testifying against their former colleagues, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday, citing court filings.

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Womack ended years of denials by admitting deputies brutalised a visitor, Gabriel Carillo, who was handcuffed and held to the floor in a room at the sheriff’s department’s main jail facility in February 2011.

Federal authorities have investigated reports of several similar incidents in 2010 and 2011. Deputies allegedly beat visitors in a windowless, secluded room and then wrote reports falsely claiming the victims had instigated violence.

Womack agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge that he lied to FBI agents when he said he did not know if Carillo, who was visiting his brother, was handcuffed.

Zunggeemoge entered a guilty plea earlier this year, court records show, according to the Times. The agreement between prosecutors and Zunggeemoge, who had faced allegations of abuse and dishonesty, was sealed by a judge, keeping details secret.

The trial of the five deputies is due to begin on 16 June. The plea agreements mark the first time in two decades that a sheriff’s deputy has been convicted in federal court of crimes related to excessive force.

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Prosecutors have portrayed Sergeant Eric Gonzalez as a ringleader who fostered abusive behaviour. Gonzalez and the other accused deputies, Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano, have pleaded not guilty.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015


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