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Former Inmates Allege Beatings in O.C. Jail

Two men who say they were attacked by deputies in a holding cell file separate lawsuits. Sheriff's Department is investigating incident.

March 12, 2003|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

Two former inmates at the Orange County Jail have filed lawsuits alleging that six guards known as the "Untouchables" beat them after one of them demanded toilet paper.

German Torres filed a civil rights lawsuit last week in Orange County Superior Court, and Ryan Gene Epperson filed suit in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

The lawsuits allege that Torres, 31, and Epperson, 27, were in a holding cell March 14, 2002, when Epperson asked for toilet paper and was mocked by sheriff's deputies, who told him they were "too busy" and then pulled him from the cell.

The inmates allege in their lawsuits that the deputies kicked and punched Epperson, and when Torres tried to come to the rescue he was pulled from the cell and subjected to the same treatment.

Epperson and Torres say they were left with cuts, bruises and broken bones as a result of the alleged attacks, some of which were captured by surveillance cameras inside the jail.

The suits allege that the deputies nicknamed themselves the "Untouchables."

Sheriff's officials declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing department policy. An internal investigation into the incident is ongoing, sheriff's spokesman John Fleishmann said.

The Orange County district attorney's office conducted its own investigation into the incident and decided not to file criminal charges, informing the sheriff's office in a letter sent in December, sheriff's officials and prosecutors said.

Kent Henderson, the attorney representing Torres, said this is the latest case of improper use of force and attempted cover-ups at the jail.

"We believe there's been a pattern," he said. "Certainly, there's been these other allegations in the past about the Orange County jail system."

The highest settlement for a brutality case in the jail system was $650,000 awarded last year to the family of an inmate who died from head injuries allegedly inflicted shortly after he was booked into the county's Intake Release Center in May 1998.

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