#MeToo Behind Bars

New sexual assault case– this time at LA County Sheriff’s Lancaster jail — to cost taxpayers $950,000

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the LA County Supervisors will vote on a $950,000 settlement for Michelle Contreras, who has sued the County of Los Angeles for an incident that occurred in mid-June of 2019, during which Contreras said she was sexually assaulted by an employee of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department while she was being held overnight in jail.

According to the civil complaint Contreras filed in federal court, on June 16, 2019, she was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for driving under the influence, and was subsequently taken to the LA County Sheriff’s station in Lancaster to be booked.

(As WitnessLA has noted in other reporting, the five most common charges women that bring women to be confined an LA County jail are drug possession, driving on a suspended license, petty theft, failure to appear in court, and driving under the influence.)

According to her complaint, while at the station, as the hour moved deeper into the early morning hours, Contreras grew cold, so she asked for blanket from a man who was reportedly the only employee she could see near the holding cell where she had been placed. The man turned out to be a young custody assistant named Daniel Everts.

Everts agreed to get he requested blanket. But before doing so, according to the complaint, he told Contreras, the blanket was “going to cost” her.

According to the complaint, the custody assistant then proceeded to make a series of sexual demands, threatening Contreras that if she didn’t comply with what he told her to do, he had the power to extend her stay in custody.

Fearful, Contreras said felt she had no real choice but to comply with Everts’ demands.

After that, Everts allegedly opened the holding cell doors, lowered his pants, and forced Contreras to orally copulate him. Then, according to the complaint, Everts made Contreras “spit out the seminal fluid into a shirt.”

Contreras was released later in the day on June 17.  After her release, she went to the Palmdale sheriff’s station, and reported that she had been assaulted at the Lancaster station.

The LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB) subsequently investigated the case, and handed it over to the DA.  So it was that, on Oct. 6, 2020, Everts, 25, was charged with one count each of forcible oral copulation, oral copulation by threat, under color of authority and sexual activity with an adult confined in a detention facility, according to the LA District Attorney’s Office.

He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Payouts to women for sexual assaults while in LASD custody

The payout of just under $1 million the supervisors are expected to approve on Tuesday, will be added to the existing list of  high ticket payouts that have been made in the last few years to women who filed lawsuits in which they described  being sexually assaulted when confined to one of the custody facilities run by the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

For example, the county has paid a total of  $5,175,000 to the women who filed lawsuits alleging they had been sexually assaulted by former LA Sheriff’s deputy Giancarlo Scotti when they were confined in Century Regional Detention Center, the county’s largest women’s jail, where Scotti worked before he was finally arrested.

The attorneys representing Michelle Contreras stated in her civil complaint that Everts had sexually assaulted other women who had been detained at the Lancaster Station “since being employed in 2015,” and that county officials were “on notice of this conduct.”  Yet the complaint was not specific about these other alleged assaults.

The lawsuit that is to be settled on Tuesday, also suggested that the Lancaster jail is behind in the audits now required of U.S. jails and prisons by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), but again the civil filings did not offer any additional details.

If convicted of the crimes with which he is charged, Everts could be sentenced to eight years in prison.  Yet, former LASD deputy Giancarlo Scotty was given only a two year sentence for assaulting six jailed women.

So….stay tuned.