Juvenile Justice Juvenile Probation LA County Board of Supervisors LA County Probation

LA County Agrees to $3.9 Million Settlement in Case of Boy Beaten into Paralysis in Juvenile Hall

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $3.9 million settlement to be paid to the family of a teen, “J.M.M.,” who was severely and permanently disabled as a result of a 2013 beating in an LA juvenile hall.

According to the federal lawsuit, probation officers told other incarcerated juveniles that the 16-year-old J.M.M. was locked up for a sexual offense allegedly involving a minor. The officers did this knowing that it would incite violence between J.M.M. and juveniles in lockup, according to J.M.M.’s attorneys.

J.M.M.’s attorneys filed a lawsuit through his guardian ad litem, Orlanda Cruz, against the county, then-Probation Chief Jerry Powers, two probation officers identified by their last names—Martinez and Walker—as well as Leah Rubke, a mental health care worker, and 10 unnamed “does” at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar. The lawsuit was filed

J.M.M. reportedly faced threats from other wards prior to the July 23, 2013, beating. Juvenile hall staff allegedly failed to protect the teen, despite knowing about the threats other juveniles were making, according to the complaint.

Two weeks before July 23, Officer Martinez allegedly hit J.M.M. in the chest, back, and stomach, because of the crime for which J.M.M. was incarcerated. At that time, Officers Martinez and Walker reportedly “taunted” the teen and threatened to tell his peers about the nature of his offense so that he would be beaten by the other teens. After the incident with the officers, J.M.M. began receiving threats from other juveniles.

The actions of the defendants were “willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive,” according to the complaint.

According to the county, J.M.M. instigated the fight with the other juvenile “by rushing and striking” the teen. According to the county’s summary of the incident, J.M.M. started the fight because he believed the other boy had found out about his sex offender status. The other teen punched J.M.M. twice in the head. When J.M.M. went to the medical unit after the fight, he told staff that he had a headache and an earache. Probation staff later found J.M.M. unconscious in his room. The teen was transported to the hospital and underwent surgery.

J.M.M. suffered severe traumatic brain injury as a result of the July 23 incident. The other teen nearly killed J.M.M., who still cannot “speak or walk, or perform daily activities of life,” the complaint states. “Until recently, J.M.M. was fed through a feeding tube and was unable to breathe on his own. J.M.M. has no control of his bodily functions, must be kept in diapers and needs around the clock attendant care.”

According to the complaint, Probation officials “failed to provide adequate security, supervision, staffing and training to protect J.M.M. from harm even though they were aware of and had been warned about the dangers associated with the lack of supervision at this juvenile detention facility, and the dangers posed to those wards similarly situated to J.M.M.”

The county faulted the Probation Department for not having protocol or training that addresses what to do when a kid who has suffered a head injury is sent back to a regular living unit from the health care facility. Moreover, a lack of cameras in the juvenile hall made it impossible to know whether probation staff members were checking in on J.M.M. every fifteen minutes as is protocol.

Barry J. Nidorf is the same facility in which four male probation officers appeared to slug, push, and kick an unresisting teenager housed in Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, CA, as a supervisor looked on. The slugfest, which occurred on April 24, 2016, was caught on video by a camera mounted in the boy’s room. The video was leaked to WLA. The LA County District Attorney’s Office charged three of the officers with assault in March.

11 Comments

  • What a fitting name, J.A.M., for a sexual predator. Terrible that the County and it’s employees have to take a hit for something the other juvenile criminals did. In the final analysis, it would have been cheaper for the County if JAM had never been caught and detained in the juvenile facility in the first place. It would have been cheaper for the taxpayers to let the young pervert roam the streets and mature into an adult sexual predator.

    Terrible how doing the “right thing” is no longer synonymous with the “best thing” in many instances.

  • Where is your story of the good officers? Those who counsel, protect, risk their lives daily at
    juvenile halls? This is a tragic case and It saddens me but there is more GOOD than bad in law enforcement. The new chief And Board Of Supervisors have no clue the great job many officers do. Tired Of all the negative, let’s focus on good, quality officers who are often the only kind, competent people many youth have. Where are those stories? Officers who work 16-hour shifts daily encouraging youth, counseling youth, teaching our young people? I saw the video you mention and while clearly wrong we also don’t focus on the fact that particular juvenile returned to custody with new charges. There is a clear problem of recidivism. Where is the rehab? I hope this teen will find their way back to the way life used to be. I pray for this young persons recovery and hope for better days for our youth and those officers who serve with care and compassion.

    • Are these the same officers you write about who try to work as much overtime possible so that they can make $250,000 a year and stick it to the taxpayer ?

  • Celeste has promised positive law enforcement stories here but because Celeste has no respect for law enforcement she simply doesn’t put any up. Simply put she’s a liar.

    • Your cyberstalking fixation on Celeste is creepy. Have you tried hypnosis or electric shock? You’re not alone in disagreement with many of the stories that appear here, but you on the other hand, take things to a fetish type level. Dude, you need a great big bro hug. Learn to let go ot leave it alone.

  • Lonestar Justice, yes there is a great deal of overtime through out the county. The reason for this is because all depart ments are under staffed. So why don’t you get a job with the county. Stop talking out your ass until you have all the facts. You are probably part of the generation that doesn’t want to work and just expects everything handed to them!

    • For reals! If you’re not going to be a part of the solution, don’t become a part of the problem.
      Unfortunately, there are too many couch commandos trying to call shots from the sideline, when they have never worn the boots before.

  • This story is so laden with inaccuracies it is difficult to know where to start. Suffice it to say, anyone actually close to the events of that fateful day will be hard pressed to recognize elements of the judgement or the Times story, let alone the dreadful slant published here.

    • Let’s get the supposed inaccuracies straight with someone who is privy to the truth. The public wants the truth even if it is brutal or ugly. Obviously someone, somewhere is responsible along with someone having actual and factual information that can be verified.

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