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Indio Jail Sex Probe: 3 Deputies on Leave

Investigation may end in criminal charges. Acts with inmates were likely consensual, sheriff says.

June 23, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Three male Riverside County Sheriff's deputies have been placed on administrative leave for allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct with female inmates at the county jail in Indio, authorities said Tuesday.

Sheriff Bob Doyle said the inappropriate sexual contact was discovered in May when jail authorities reviewed "monitored communications" among inmates, although he declined to say whether those included telephone conversations or inmate letters.

Doyle said the investigation has shown that the sexual activity began as early as April.

"We don't think it had gone on too long, and we think the pool [of deputies and inmates involved] was limited," Doyle said. "We've been investigating this for a while, and we've come up with three deputies, and we think that could be it."

Doyle and a sheriff's spokesman declined to discuss the specifics of the allegations.

Sheriff's spokesman Earl Quinata described the alleged misconduct as "criminal," and said that the findings from the sheriff's internal investigation unit would be forwarded to prosecutors for a review and could result in charges being filed as soon as next week.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney said sexual contact between inmates and guards is a felony, because state law forbids law enforcement officers from abusing the power of their position to engage in sex with inmates, whether consensual or forced.

Doyle declined to say whether other deputies were aware of the alleged misconduct and failed to report the crimes. He said the investigation showed that the sexual contact between the guards and the inmates appeared to be consensual.

"Again, this [investigation] started because of monitored inmate conversations; no [inmate] came to us complaining about it," Doyle said. "So far, it would appear to be [consensual]."

The investigation has included "a significant amount" of interviews with Indio jail inmates, including those who have been subsequently released or transferred to state prison, Doyle said.

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