A federal jury found Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca personally liable in a case involving abuse of an inmate in the Men’s Central Jail, meaning the sheriff could be required to pay $100,000 out of pocket, reports the Los Angeles Times. It is the first time a jury held Baca personally at fault in a deputy use-of-force case. Sheriff’s officials called the verdict a “huge mistake” and said they would appeal.
Tyler Willis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2010, alleging that deputies severely beat him in 2009 while he was awaiting trial. He alleged that he was punched and kicked repeatedly, shot with a Taser multiple times and struck “numerous times” in the ankle with a heavy metal flashlight, causing fractures and head injuries. After a weeklong trial, the jury returned with a verdict in Willis’ favor. They found that the conduct of Baca and four other employees was “malicious, oppressive or in reckless disregard” of Willis’ rights. Willis’ attorneys argued that Baca failed to heed warnings that letting deputies use heavy flashlights to control inmates could cause serious injuries. “I think it speaks volumes that members of the jury heard the evidence and said, ‘This goes all the way to the top,’ ” said Mark Pachowicz, a Willis attorney.