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No Charges Filed in Alleged Jail Beating

San Bernardino County prosecutors say they can't prove guards' guilt. Chino inmates' stories were inconsistent, a state investigation concludes.

June 04, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

San Bernardino County prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against Chino state prison officers who allegedly beat prisoners a year ago, a top deputy district attorney said Tuesday.

Supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Joe Gaetano said he decided to drop the case after state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office submitted its investigative report in April.

"The basic reasons are that there are inconsistencies and credibility issues with the victims in this case," Gaetano said.

"Based on that, we cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury," he continued.

The case attracted attention Monday when two internal affairs investigators for the state Department of Corrections filed a complaint alleging that the prison guards union intervened with state officials to stymie what potentially was a criminal investigation.

According to the complaint by Robert Maldonado and Richard Feaster of the office of investigative services, guards at the prison attacked the inmates in retaliation for prisoners having gotten into a fight with officers earlier in the day on May 9, 2002.

The warden at the California Institute for Men requested that Maldonado and Feaster open the investigation.

Corrections officials later directed that the investigators turn over investigative material to the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., which represents prison guards.

Maldonado and Feaster balked and turned to the state attorney general.

Lockyer's office took over the investigation and gave its findings to the San Bernardino County district attorney to determine whether to file charges.

Gaetano said Lockyer could have protested the decision against filing charges, but had not filed such an appeal. Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said that although state Department of Justice investigators interviewed the inmates, prison officers rebuffed requests for interviews.

"The district attorney had a difficult decision to make," Barankin said, "and a difficult case to prove to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."

Although the criminal investigation is closed, Chino prison spokesman Lt. Arioma Sams said Tuesday that prison officials are conducting an administrative investigation into the incident.

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