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Deputy's lawsuit alleges racism at sheriff station

The Regulators say they are an elite cadre. Their critics compare them to the Mexican Mafia.

September 05, 2007|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

"You want me to talk to you about somebody else that may not want their business known. I can't do that for you," Grubb said while under oath in a deposition for Jaimes' lawsuit. "It's not up to me to bring somebody else out."

Grubb would not answer many questions from Christy L. O'Donnell, a lawyer representing the county in the lawsuit:

"Are you the leader of the Regulators?"

"There's no such thing as the leader," Grubb replied.

"How do decisions get made, then, by the Regulators?"

"I won't discuss that. It's not something that's public knowledge," Grubb said.

"You do understand, though, that when you refuse to answer questions . . . it has the negative inference of the code of silence?"

"As does a lot of things in general life," Grubb said.

Grubb confirmed that deceased Deputy Jerry Ortiz, slain by a gang member in 2005, was once a member of the Regulators. Grubb said he drove Ortiz to a Huntington Beach tattoo shop to get his Regulators tattoo in 2000 or 2001.

Ortiz's killer, Jose Luis Orozco, was sentenced to death in May. In a recent interview, defense attorney Stan Perlo said he was unaware of Ortiz's membership in the Regulators. Had he known about it, he might have presented it as evidence during the penalty phase of the trial, which focused largely on Ortiz's character and Orozco's history of gang membership.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Lowell Anger, who prosecuted the case, also said he didn't know Ortiz was once a Regulators member.

Perlo said the Sheriff's Department should have told prosecutors about Ortiz's membership in the Regulators. He said it could become an issue in his client's appeal.

Baca said he did not consider the issue relevant.

"The murderer was convicted of his cowardly act of gunning down a deputy sheriff in cold blood. Justice was most assuredly served," Baca said.

Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the sheriff's Office of Independent Review, which monitors internal affairs investigations, said he was concerned that groups like the Regulators hurt morale and divide deputies.

He said that the name itself, the Regulators, is a cause for concern. In jail culture, regulators are inmates who control other inmates' behavior.

In 1994, rapper Warren G's hit single "Regulate," began: "Regulators we regulate any stealing of his property and we damn good too. But you can't be any geek off the street. Gotta be handy with the steel, if you know what I mean."

"The name and connotation and symbol they have selected can cause sinister perceptions, even if in reality nothing sinister is going on," Gennaco said.

Jaimes said Regulators' members have done nothing inappropriate. No deputy has ever been disciplined for activity related to the group, he said. Rather, he said, department administrators wronged him by referring to the group as the Mexican Mafia, a gang implicated in murders, drug dealing and extortion.

"Everybody in the Sheriff's Department knows the name Mexican Mafia, because we work the jails," he said. "You're talking to a Mexican Mafia expert. I testified against the Mexican Mafia. So having them call me this hurts me."

Sheriff's Sgt. Arthur Scott, one of Jaimes' former supervisors, testified at a deposition in the lawsuit that he once saw Latino deputies gathered in a room at the Century station and said, "This looks like a meeting of the Mexican Mafia." Scott said he made the statement "in a joking fashion."

It was a confrontation with Scott that ultimately led Jaimes to sue the department that has employed him for 18 years. Jaimes said he confronted Scott at a briefing and used profanity while criticizing the sergeant's management style and for failing to apologize for using the Mexican Mafia term.

As a result of that incident, Jaimes was suspended for 25 days and transferred out of the Century station. His lawsuit against the department seeks to overturn the discipline and the transfer. A hearing on the county's efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed is scheduled for Monday.

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