The father of a Mission Viejo man who was beaten to death at Theo Lacy Jail has filed a lawsuit saying Orange County sheriff's deputies misidentified his son as a child molester to other inmates, telling them "he needed to be taken care of" and promising them special privileges if they followed through.
The wrongful-death lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, also accuses the deputies of ignoring John Derek Chamberlain as he cried for help for more than 20 minutes during the attack Oct. 5, 2006, and then trying to cover up their involvement by backdating a jail log.
"The guards just stood there and didn't do anything," Newport Beach attorney Jerry L. Steering, who is representing Chamberlain's father, said Wednesday. "They had to have seen it. They had to have heard it."
A special grand jury impaneled by the Orange County district attorney's office began investigating the death in May. To date, six current and former jail inmates have been charged with murder in the case.
Sheriff's officials did not return calls Wednesday.
They have denied allegations that deputies revealed information about Chamberlain before he was killed.
Chamberlain, a 41-year-old computer technician, was admitted to the general population of F West Barracks, a minimum-security unit at Theo Lacy, after being arrested in September 2006 on suspicion of domestic battery and suspicion of possession of child pornography.
Sources familiar with the case have previously said that Chamberlain became worried for his safety and that his attorney, Chase Barnett, called a deputy to ask for a transfer five hours before the attack.
The lawsuit names three deputies -- Kevin Taylor, Jason Chapluk and Phillip Le -- as co-conspirators, accusing them of having Chamberlain beaten because they presumed him to be a molester.
At least one of the deputies met with an inmate and passed on that erroneous information, the lawsuit says, promising that inmates who took care of Chamberlain would be allowed watch a Dodgers-Mets baseball playoff game and be rewarded with other privileges.
According to the lawsuit, Chamberlain was walked to Cubicle D, an area of the barracks where inmates are routinely "taxed," or beaten, for breaching prisoner protocol. About 20 inmates swarmed, punching, kicking and jumping on him, the lawsuit says.
Chamberlain "screamed out" for 20 to 30 minutes trying to get deputies to "stop his beating and to save his life," but they ignored his pleas and remained in the guard station, the lawsuit alleges.
After the beating, inmates washed blood off their jail scrubs, and put blood on inmates who were not involved to disguise the identity of those who participated, the lawsuit says.
The deputies, meanwhile, sought to cover up the conspiracy, the lawsuit alleges, by changing a jail log to make it appear that, after getting a call from Chamberlain's lawyer about a transfer, they met with Chamberlain and he told them he "felt safe" and "did not want to be moved or placed in protective custody."
The "backdated log entry was false, as no such discussion ever took place," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks $60 million in damages from the county and the deputies and inmates named.