Crime and Punishment FBI LA County Jail LASD The Feds U.S. Attorney

1st Day of Newest LASD Trial Features Accusations of Out-of-Control Brutality by Deputies versus Claims of Wall-to-Wall Gov’t Lies


On Tuesday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth Rhodes told a seven-woman, five-man jury about a man named Gabriel Carrillo who, on February 26, 2011, came with his girlfriend to LA County’s Men’s Central Jail to visit Carrillo’s brother. However, both Carrillo and his girlfriend had cells phones with them, and cell phones are prohibited in the visitors’ center, said Rhodes. When the cellphones were discovered, Carrillo became defensive and mouthed off to a deputy who handcuffed Carrillo and led into a side room where, Rhodes said, the visitor was beaten by multiple deputies to the point he had to be hospitalized. Then those same deputies plus their supervisor falsified charges against Carrillo, Rhodes told the jury, claiming that he was the aggressor who had assaulted the deputies, not the other way around.

“Mr. Carrillo walked into Men’s Central Jail as a vistor, and left on a gurney,” Rhodes concluded.

And so began the opening arguments in the latest federal trial of members and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The trio who sat at the defense table on Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge George H. King (who happens to be the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California) were LASD sergeant Eric Gonzalez, and deputies Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano, all three of whom were accused of participating, either directly or indirectly, in the vicious beating of Carrillo who came to the visitors’ center of Men’s Central Jail in order to visit his brother, Robert Carrillo—who had, a few nights before, been arrested and beaten badly in the course of the arrest.

When it was the defense team’s turn to deliver an opening, attorneys for each of the defendants got up, one after the other.

“What is this case about?” attorney Patrick Smith asked the jury. “Lies and nothing else! You are going to hear nothing but lies out of every witness that the government puts up.” Smith is representing deputy Sussie Ayala.

All three defendants are among the more than 20 members of the LASD who have been indicted as part of a multi-year FBI investigation into brutality and corruption in the LA County jail system and into wrongdoing in department in general.


The trial that began this week is particularly interesting in that two of the original five charged in the indictment—former deputies Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and Noel Womack—have taken plea deals from the federal prosecutors in return for their willingness to admit to the charges of which they are accused and, it seems, to testify at the trial of their three former codefendants.

Since all this deal making began, both Zunggeemoge and Womack have changed their stories about what happened on the day of Carrillo’s beating.

Zunggeemoge will be first up when court begins again at 8 a.m. in front of Judge King at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and United States Courthouse on Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles.

After this trial is complete, next fall will bring the trial of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former captain Tom Carey in early November.

And still earlier this coming fall, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the appeals of the six former department members who were convicted last year of obstruction of justice and on the appeal of former LASD deputy James Sexton who was convicted of obstruction last year in a separate trial.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrections and clarifications were made in this story at 5:35 P.M. on Wednesday, June 17.


  • Regardless of the outcome of this particular case, the management team of Paul “working the grey” Tanaka remains firmly in place, still perpetuating the cause championed by the disgraced former undersheriff. Why McDonnell hasn’t wiped the slate clean and set a new course for the department remains a mystery.

    McDonnell should realize, and pretty soon, that he will be judged harshly by voters in 2018 if he thinks making no decisions is better than making a few wrong ones. The organization suffered a major loss of reputation, paralyzed by ruthless cronyism mixed in with an utter lack of ethics. If his management team remains intact, then he will be a one-term wonder, and for good cause.

    It’s not too late Jim to do the right thing, but your clock is running out. Whoever heard of a bankrupt company retaining the management team that bankrupted it?

  • Such a terrible price to pay. These young deputies were being “trained” by the sergeant, who led them down a path which just might lead them all to a jail cell. Horrible.

  • The thick plot that LASD began with is becoming thinner and thinner as the blades of truth cuts through it’s toxic culture.

    The lies and corruption that is being exposed is akin to a naked person running through Disneyland shouting “Hilary for President”.

  • I am glad to see the corruption being brought out into the court system and transparency. To think that with all the witnesses that came forth to report beatings in the jail and other corruption, the sad command staff of LASD would not stop it.

    I keep wondering which of the 7 Convicted Criminals are going to turn to the Feds and say ” let’s make a deal” and start turning on their counterparts real quietly while maintaining a front of unity.

  • Still no mention of 2 deputies aquited of cospiracy and false reports. I guess the fact that crooks occasionally make up stories about police is not “headline grabbing.”

  • The Dep (s) that are testifying against their partners are rats. If the Feds want to prosecute you for wrong doing, let them do it. Take your lumps like a man (or woman) and keep your dignity (and the support of your peers).


    5. Don’t give up on us doing that story on the two acquitted LASD deputies who, along with their families, had their lives on hold with these charges since April 2013. It’s a good and important story for a whole host of reasons. But, as we didn’t want to simply duplicate what the LA Times put up on Friday, we intended to take a slightly different angle on it and thought we’d publish on Tuesday or today.

    However, as sometimes is the case with best laid plans….they did not play out quite as we’d hoped. I’ve been more snowed than I thought with MCJ Visiters’ Center trial, and there’s some additional info I’d like to have on the deputy acquittal story, plus I’m also working on another non-LE-related story that has to go up this week as it has a time-critical element….and so on. So, as long as we’ve waited this long, I think we may delay the story until next week.

    So please try to be patient. We’re on it. I promise.

    And, yes, I know the above is a little TMI, but since a number of people have asked, I figured I’d explain.

    Okay, now back to writing about Day 2 in the latest round in Fed Court.


  • @getaprip: I hear what you’re saying, but the fact is we were all sworn in, given badges and guns and expected to act individually as responsible adults. I have never liked the idea of someone, who took part in an “illegal act” (if it was) suddenly wanting to bare their soul once they are caught! The time for that revelation is when the “illegal act” is occurring! Saved people from themselves on may an occasion!

    In a million years, I never thought I would agree with TT Bad Boy, but other than the way he presented his message, he’s right. That being said, since I know who he is, I just laugh off his attempt at sounding like a tough guy!

  • Let the facts come out, not spin. And if the jury convicts, this I will tell you and you can take it to the bank. Gonzalez is going to fry like an egg on the flattop of the MCJ ODR. He will swing like a trash bag in a hurricane, and that he should. Who was the Watch Commander who okie dokie yet another Visiting Front beat down? Who was the Operations Lieutenant who approved yet another Visiting Front beat down? Who was the Captain who signed off on yet another Visiting Front bullshit caper? All of them were Paul’s ashtray cleaners, boot lickers and cigar lighters. Gonzales led 4 young deputies to the gallows, the careers ruined, their lives changed forever all behind what? Gray Zone bullshit. Gonzo, you are going to be slammed. I’m down for doing the Lord’s work, but this is nothing but corruption, arrogance and Tanaka on full display.

  • It’s kind of strange how the department all of a sudden wants to fire or demote everybody for anything, even the most trivial, knowing full well that many won’t be sustained in Civil Service. Yet at the same time, there is no statue of limitations for violations of civil rights if I understand the law correctly, and there are many enablers of the Tanaka Grey Zone who royally violated the rights of many of those in custody and employees as well.

    Why the double standard? If McDonnell wants to champion the rule of law, I’m all for it, however he should start with the corrupt management team he’s surrounded himself with.

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