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Los Angeles County inmate in deputy assault case pleads no contest

James Parker's case was the subject of a federal civil rights probe into alleged abuse by deputies.

November 24, 2011|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles County jail inmate, whose case became the center of a federal civil rights probe into allegations of deputy abuse, acquiesced in his legal battle Wednesday and pleaded no contest to resisting a deputy.

Last September, the initial prosecution against James Parker foundered when a jury hung, leaning in favor of acquitting the Twin Towers inmate accused of assaulting two deputies. The man's defense had been bolstered by the account of an American Civil Liberties Union jail monitor who witnessed the incident and said the deputies beat Parker for two minutes even though he appeared to be unconscious.

Parker's decision to plead no contest to one of the three original charges against him bolsters the Sheriff's Department's allegation that he was the aggressor.

"Obviously, the plea speaks for itself," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore about Parker's no contest plea. "In a court of law, it basically means the same thing as guilty."

When the deputies took the witness stand, they described Parker as the aggressor, saying that even when they finally got him to the floor, he continued to swing his elbows and tried to push himself up.

The ACLU monitor, however, alleged that the two deputies continued to beat Parker even as he lay motionless on the floor "like he was a mannequin." After she went public with her allegations, the FBI launched an investigation into the alleged beating.

Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, criticized prosecutors for proceeding with the case while the investigation into the deputies' conduct was ongoing.

"The fact that the D.A. has insisted on continuing this case when both the county and the FBI have confirmed they're investigating the deputies for criminal behavior is and will remain a black eye on the face of the D.A.'s office," Eliasberg said.

Parker pleaded no contest to one felony count of resisting an officer. The other two charges against him — battery with injury on a peace officer and resisting a peace officer with serious bodily injury — were dropped, a D.A. spokeswoman said.

Parker's attorney said he had already served his 16-month sentence and would be released soon.

The attorney, Damon L. Hobdy, said he was disappointed by Parker's decision not to continue fighting the charges. He said his client couldn't bear to be in jail any longer.

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