An inmate eats dinner in his cell at the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles.… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
A Los Angeles County sheriff's jailer was charged Thursday with assaulting two inmates and falsifying police reports afterward, the first prosecution since abuses in the jails were first alleged more than a year ago.
Jermaine Jackson, a five-year veteran of the department, is accused of assaulting two inmates using "a deadly weapon" — his feet. At least one of the incidents was caught on tape, a sheriff's spokesman said.
The deputy was being booked Thursday into the jail system he once policed and was ordered held on $100,000 bail. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Jackson is on leave without pay pending the outcome of the case. He has not yet entered a plea.
The arrest comes more than a year after the FBI began an investigation into deputy misconduct within the L.A. County jail system, the largest in the nation. This arrest, however, resulted from an internal sheriff's investigation.
One of the alleged assaults that Jackson, 35, was charged with was described in a declaration filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
In a sworn statement, inmate Derek Griscavage said he was housed in the Twin Towers jail in downtown L.A. on Christmas Day 2010 when Jackson shouted profanities at him because he did not drop to his knees fast enough during a routine search. Griscavage said he flashed his middle finger at the jailer, whom he described as a bulky, 6-foot deputy with a shaved head.
About 20 minutes later, the deputy ordered him to face a jail window and then kicked the insides of Griscavage's ankles hard with his boots, according to the declaration. Jackson, Griscavage said, handcuffed him and "savagely pushed my cuffed hands up so my arms resembled chicken wings, straining my shoulders and handling me with enough force that my face was pushed into the pod window."
Jackson then forced Griscavage to walk to an area of the jail where four or five deputies were waiting, and "everything went black," the declaration said.
Griscavage said he woke up in the hospital "with a stabbing pain in my head ... undoubtedly the worst headache I have ever felt." He said there was blood on his bare chest, and his eyes were "swimming with blood flowing out of the cuts on my face and head."
He said he suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a cut to his ear, a swollen head and a chipped tooth.
Inmates later told him that Jackson had punched him while he was handcuffed and then kneed and kicked his head and face, according to the declaration. Other inmates, he said, were ordered to mop up a pool of blood after the assault.
Griscavage said a sheriff's detective visited him about the incident but that her focus was not whether the deputy assaulted him but whether he attacked the deputy and caused a scratch to Jackson's hand. He said the detective told him he needed to give a blood sample to ensure that the deputy had not been exposed to any infectious diseases but did not ask any other questions about the incident. Griscavage alleged that another deputy snickered at him, saying, "I heard you got knocked out."
The incident was among dozens of abuse allegations the Sheriff's Department began reexamining last year amid public criticism of jail conditions.
Prosecutors charged Jackson, of Corona, with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, assault by a public officer and filing a false report in connection with two separate incidents. He is also accused of assaulting Cesar Campana, an inmate at the Compton courthouse lockup, in December 2009.
"The sheriff is taking this very seriously," Whitmore said. The incidents, he added, were isolated with no other employees involved.
Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, said he was pleased that the Sheriff's Department had taken action in response to his organization's complaints, but questioned why more hadn't been done when the incident first occurred.
"Why wasn't this arrest made in 2011? The answer is, because very likely the first investigation was cursory, sloppy and a whitewash," he said.