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Calif. Wellness 2013 Peace Prize Winners….& A 2008 Case of LA Jail Ultra-Violence Goes to Trial

October 11th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Every year the California Wellness Foundation chooses three Peace Prize winners who are honored at a celebratory dinner that kicks off the foundation’s yearly Violence Prevention Conference.

The three outstanding community leaders who received the prizes Thursday night at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter hotel in San Diego each had affecting personal stories to tell, all of which seemed to touch the crowd.

The first to speak was Lali Moheno, the daughter of a migrant farm worker mother who, Moheno said, quite literally “died in the fields” of complications of diabetes because she was not properly diagnosed and treated for the disease. Now Moheno runs a health awareness program in Tulare County, where she connects women farmworkers and their families with health care and mental health services, reaching around 1000 women. All of her work is done on a shoestring budget consisting mostly of locally gathered donations.

(Did I mention that each Peace Prize comes with a $25,000 check?)

Moheno talked about how every time she got together a group women to talk about diabetes and other health issues, the conversation always turned quickly to domestic violence and serious instances of sexual harassment on the job. Thus Moheno realized that a big part of her work would be to find ways to help these women combat the damage and trauma that the violence in their homes brought to them and their kids.

Although the other two winners each worked in different arenas, the theme of the interweave of trauma and violence was something that each brought up with a sense of urgency.

For instance, another winner, Tasha Williamson, is an ardent community peace advocate who runs an organization that provides help and emotional support for families in San Diego County who have lost loved ones to gang or gun violence.

As she explained her work, Williamson talked about her upbringing in a particularly violence-ridden area of South LA, where the gang violence was so intense that her mother didn’t allow her to go outdoors to play “until I was 10 years old.”

The real danger for Williamson, however, would come, not from the street, but from inside her family when she was sexually abused as a child by a family member.

She said that the trauma of that violence visited on her when she was a kid made her a “very angry teenager” who took to the streets with a vengeance, getting in fights whenever possible.

Williamson said she sees that same kind of anger in many of the kids whose actions cause such grief in the communities where she works.

(Incidentally, Williamson drew the biggest gasp of the night when she said how much the $25,000 award would mean in her life, since she was a single mom with four kids who “lived off $13,000 last year.”)

The third honoree, George Galvis, served time in prison before co-founding an organization in the Bay area called Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) which helps kids who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system.

Galvis too talked about how violence in the family can send a kid to the street.

“The cycles of violence are so profound,” he said, then explained he grew up in a home where life was routinely shattered by domestic violence. “Then I ended up perpetuating the violence on the street against boys who looked just like me,” he said, “all because of my anger at my father.”

More can be learned about the Peace Prize honorees here.

NOTE: Today’s conference will feature a keynote address by Michael Santos, who served 26 years as a federal prisoner, returning to society on August 12, 2013—60 days ago—bringing with him a remarkable story and a deeply felt sense of personal mission.

More on Santos soon.


The Daily News’ Christina Villacorte, is attending a civil trial having to do with a 2008 incident in Men’s Central Jail where multiple inmates were badly injured and the jail supervisor at the time, then-Lieutenent Dan Cruz, appears to celebrate the deputies’ agression.

Here are some clips. But be sure to read the whole hair-raising account of the Villacorte’s day in court.

Videos of inmates screaming in pain while being hit multiple times with a Taser. A sheriff’s deputy taking the stand to deny he used excessive force even while testifying he punched and kicked inmates as many as 35 times after they were already sprawled face down on their cells.

Those were just some of the highlights — or lowlights — of a trial underway at the downtown federal courthouse, as Los Angeles County and its Sheriff’s Department stand accused of subjecting inmates to “dehumanizing abuse” while “under the color of law” during a cell extraction on Aug. 25, 2008.

Five inmates — Heriberto Rodriguez, Carlos Flores, Erick Nunez, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Juan Trinidad — are suing for unspecified damages, saying they suffered skull fractures, broken limbs and other serious injuries after being “unmercifully beaten” by deputies at Men’s Central Jail.

In their complaint, they said about 15 to 30 inmates barricaded themselves inside their cells to protest the beating of a fellow inmate.

Deputies allegedly responded by subjecting them to “brutal and gratuitous force that was unnecessary for any legitimate penal interest and amounted to punishment.”

The violence took place three weeks after gang members killed a jail deputy, Juan Escalante, outside his home in Cypress Park….


…Deputy Nicholas Graham admitted during cross-examination that he punched and kicked inmates 17 to 35 times after they had been hit repeatedly with Tasers, and forced down to the floor.

Graham said both in his post-incident report and during cross-examination that the inmates were not fighting back.

But when plaintiff’s attorney James Muller asked if he used excessive force, Graham responded, “That’s incorrect.”

He also said, “Force is a prerogative.


In one of the videos, an inmate was hit with a Taser repeatedly even after he was heard screaming, “I give up!”

At one point, deputies laughed because Graham cursed after accidentally hitting himself with a Taser.

Another video showed Lt. Dan Cruz, a supervisor at the jail, appearing to give deputies high-fives after they walked out of the cells, carrying inmates who had been rendered unconscious.

Posted in crime and punishment, Gangs, LA County Jail, LASD, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, Violence Prevention | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. J.London Says:

    AUSAG: Mr. Tanaka you have seen these videos and viewed the testimony of the deputies involved including that of Deputy Graham? In your view was it excessive force?

    Tanaka: I don know the video looks kind of¨GREY¨ to me.

    AUSAG: Mr. Cruz you were ¨finessed¨ off your job because you were going to be demoted for committing crimes and abuses. When you left LASD you kept your police credentials and are under federal investigation by the FBI. Did you not give orders, to deputies, not to hit inmates on the face?

    Cruz: I work for Tanaka! I work for Tanaka! I work for Tanaka!

    AUSAG: Mr. Baca you are the sheriff and isn´t it true that you were hiding under your desk when all this happened?

    Baca: I was looking for my plane tickets to the Middle East. I found a place for hot young chicks!

    AUSAG: Mr. WAldie you were the Undersheriff when this all happen. What were you doing?

    Waldie: I was with Baca, under the desk, looking for my tickets so I could go with Baca!

    We should have a non-money bet on how much the taxpayers are going to pay out. Mu guess taxpayers will be awarded a little over a million for the entire case.

  2. InterestedParty Says:

    J.London… How about pay-outs for off-duty excessive force administered by MCJ deputies on other off-duty department personnel, at Cruz-Era Xmas parties? . . . pay-outs to the female deputy struck in the face at the Quiet Cannon Xmas Party Donnybrook where Cruz infamously said while toasting his attending troops, “What do I always tell you guys? That’s right. Not in the face.” . . . or to the female CRDF custody assistant whose jaw was broken by her MCJ deputy boyfriend the year before in the parking lot at another MCJ Xmas party held at another golf course banquet facility? The civil court calendars are going to be busy for years to come with MCJ/Cruz-related fall-out.

  3. Investigative Mind Says:

    Wow, I forgot about the MCJ xmas party fiasco………

  4. tomv Says:

    Well it would seem ex deputy or soon to be ex deputy Graham got immunity from the Feds or both the feds and DA. If not he had better be a UFC world champion when he goes away. If he got immunity then who gives up may in turn flip and the whole house of cards will collapse. The top always seems to insulate itself well. Look for quick retirements shortly to see who else is shaking.

  5. Interested Party Says:

    InterestedParty, I’m sorry for having a name which is basically the same as your’s. Before commenting here I lurked for awhile and didn’t see your name. Besides for you condemning me for my name I mostly agree with everything you say. No payouts will be given to the Female Deputy punched in the face by the former Deputy as she didn’t file a suit. She did get a bad rap and was transferred from MCJ to CRDF and has been investigated many times since the incident. If you read any of the LA Times reports the 2 Deputies that were savagely beaten deserved it. The Times reported the female Deputy didn’t know who hit her which is total bullshit. The time reported total false claims of Cpt Cruz regarding a Deputy getting beaten and holding a tie of a former Deputy. I don’t know who gives the information to the Times but I’m sure you do. The ICIB/IA had 1800 pages or so. In those pages witnesses reported 8-12 people beating on 2. Strange how only 6 got fired. Whats really strange is how IA say’s Deputies were lying, drunk, and drove home yet nothing happened to them. GASP it’s not what you know it’s who you know?

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