Prosecutors charged three San Francisco deputies on Tuesday for staging gladiator fights among inmates and making them beat themselves bloody under criminal threats, NBC Bay Area is reporting.
District Attorney George Gascon, who announced the charges, accused Deputy Sheriffs Clifford Chiba and Eugene Jones and former Deputy Sherriff Scott Neu of running a prison “Fight Club.”
“These deputies have committed serious crimes that have damaged the moral authority of law enforcement. Subjecting inmates who are in their care and custody of the state to degrading and inhuman treatment makes a mockery of our justice system.”
The charges stemmed from a fight staged on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice jail, when a father of a pummeled inmate lodged a complaint with the San Francisco’s public defender’ office. An investigation by the San Francisco Public Corruption Taskforce was launched and headed by Gascon.
Former Deputy Scott Neu has been charged with 17 counts, including making criminal threats, inflicting unusual and cruel punishment, inhumanity against inmates under his care, and failure to perform his official duty. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted.
— Prison_Health (@Prison_Health) January 14, 2016
Deputy Eugene Jones was charged with similar allegations, including felony counts of “willfully failing to perform an official duty.” He could face up to five years behind bars if convicted. Jones has been put on administrative leave without pay, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Deputy Clifford Chiba, the only one to escape felony charges, was alleged to have given an inmate fighting tips and faces a misdemeanor charge of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. He could face a year and six months in jail time. A spokeswoman said that Chiba was working in a place where he had no contact with inmates or the public.
According to documents obtained by the court, Neu forced jail inmates Stanley Harris and Ricardo Palakiki-Garcia to exchange blows on March 5, 2014, on the seventh floor of the county jail. Neu purportedly told Harris and Garcia that if they refused to fight, they would be handcuffed and tased. Neu also threatened that they would be sent to a different jail with fewer privileges. The inmates fought each other with the other accused officers present, who refused to stop the fight. Prosecutors said Neu and Jones made the inmates fight again the following day.
— Prison Law Blog (@PrisonerLaw) February 3, 2016
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi revealed that the deputies were placing wagers on fights.
An investigation had been ongoing by local and federal authorities since the allegations emerged in March 2015 under former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
In November, Mirkarimi was booted out of office and replaced by Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who took over in January. Since taking over, the sheriff has asked for more training for officers and performance evaluations. The new sheriff hopes to purchase body cameras for all deputies in the Hall of Justice jail, which houses over 300 inmates. The surveillance cameras had stopped functioning, with not enough money to replace them. But Hennessy said all that would soon change, and she also added that no more deputies would be charged.
“This is something that is embarrassing for the deputies of course, because most of them are professional, hardworking and humane people who do their job in very difficult circumstances. We have to hold people accountable and put a system in place that does hold people accountable.”
Harry Stern, the attorney for the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Deputies Union, has labeled the allegations “exaggerated” and the jailhouse fights as “little more than horseplay.”
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]