Eric Gonzalez was once a sergeant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – now he is on his way to an eight year federal prison term.
Gonzalez was the supervisor on duty when he watched as Gabriel Carrillo was beaten by five other sheriff deputies in February 2011 at the Central Jail in Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge George King ordered Gonzalez into custody immediately, saying, “You have abused your authority and corrupted the very system you were sworn to uphold.”
“It was a blatant crime, no different than one committed by any street criminal, except that it was worse because it was committed by a law enforcement officer,” the judge further said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Judge King rejected a plea from Gonzalez’s attorney for a reduced sentences, saying the deputy “believes he is above the law and that he can show total disrespect for the law.”
King said the eight-year sentence was to serve as a reminder and warning to any other law enforcement officer that thinks about engaging in misconduct.
Gonzalez was found guilty in June of deprivation of civil rights, conspiracy to violate Constitutional rights and falsification of records. The other deputies involved will face later trials. However, two deputies have pleaded guilty – in an agreement to testify against Gonzalez.
The deputies involved stopped Carrillo in the jail as he was going to visit his brother who was an inmate in the jail. The deputies stopped Carrillo because he had a cell phone, which is not allowed.
Carrillo got into an argument with the deputies, and the altercation began. The deputies put Carrillo in handcuffs took him to the break-room and then proceeded to pepper spray him, slam him into the refrigerator, slam him to the ground, and punch him.
It was then that Carrillo was arrested for battery on a custodial officer, resisting and attempted escape during a lawful detention. The charges were later dismissed.
Carrillo filed a civil rights lawsuit, but later dropped it amend a $1.2 Million settlement paid to him by Los Angeles County.
Gonzalez bragged about the beating by sending a photo of Carrillo’s bloodied, scared, and bruised face to a fellow deputy in a text message:
“Looks like we did a better job. Where’s my beer big homie.”
Gonzalez was comparing Carrillo’s beating to his brother’s beating. The brother had been beaten by a different group of deputies earlier in the year.
Prosecutors in the case said:
“An aggravated assault with serious bodily injuries is a grave offense. When such a crime is undertaken by a gang of law enforcement and then covered up as if the victim committed the crime, the harm to important societal interests makes the crime all the more significant.”
However, in an attempt to defend the deputy’s actions, Joseph Avrahamy the attorney for Gonzalez said:
“County jails are saturated with dangerous and unpredictable individuals. The fact that deputies occasionally err on the side of using too much force to ‘take down’ suspects, while not acceptable, is perhaps inevitable given the violent and dangerous milieu in which they work and risk their lives.”
Avrahamy tried to have Gonzalez freed pending an appeal, the judge rejected that request. If that wasn’t enough, Avrahamy also tried to have the eight year sentence suspended for 60 days so Gonzalez could tie up loose ends in his life – the judge rejected that request too.