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Jury finds racism in deputy's case

Black supervisors had punished the Latino. A settlement is reached.

October 17, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

Black supervisors in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were acting out of racism when they called a group of Latino deputies the "Mexican Mafia" and disciplined a member, jurors found Thursday.

Angel Jaimes, a 19-year veteran of the department, was harassed because of his Mexican origin by his supervisors, who, according to testimony, said the station "was run by Mexicans and they were going to change that," the panel concluded.

But jurors also said they did not find the supervisors' conduct to be "outrageous."

After the verdict was reached, attorneys settled the lawsuit for $432,000 in lost wages and punitive damages -- far less than the roughly $6 million that Jaimes had sought.

A spokesman for the department declined to comment on the verdict.

Jaimes brought the suit in 2005, alleging that he was moved to a less desirable assignment when he protested that his supervisors referred to a group of deputies he was close to as the Mexican Mafia.

The six-week trial in downtown Los Angeles revolved around attorneys painting two disparate pictures of the group of Latino deputies at the Century Station in Lynwood who called themselves the "Regulators."

Jaimes' attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, told jurors that the Regulators were singled out by supervisors and likened to the Mexican Mafia because of a stereotype that pegs male Latinos as likely gang members.

But attorneys for the county said serious allegations were raised against the group. To supervisors, the Regulators called to mind another notorious sheriff's clique, the "Vikings." In the early 1990s, white deputies who belonged to the Vikings were accused of brutalizing minorities, making bogus arrests and engaging in wrongful shootings.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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