A federal jury concluded that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is personally liable in a case involving the reported use of excessive force against an inmate. The decision might result in Baca having to pay $100,000 of his own money in punitive damages.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Tyler Willis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in October 2010, alleging that deputies severely beat him in 2009 while he was an inmate awaiting trial. He alleged that he was punched and kicked repeatedly, shot with a Taser multiple times and struck "numerous times" in the ankle with a heavy metal flashlight, causing fractures and head injuries.
The jury ruled in Willis’ favor and become the first to hold Baca personally at fault in a deputy use-of-force case.
Attorney Sonia Mercado praised the jury for “holding Sheriff Baca personally accountable for his misconduct in condoning his subordinates’ blatant disregard for the law." She called it "an important step in bringing about much needed change to the barbaric misconduct," according to KPCC.
Baca will reportedly personally pay $100,000 in punitive damages, while the other four defendants will share the remaining $65,000 in punitive damages.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department plans to appeal the verdict. He said that the use of force was "brought on by the inmate" and that deputies had acted within policy.
Whitmore also felt that the jury had erred in considering the jail commission findings when they decided Baca was personally liable.
"We respect juries, but they made a mistake," Whitmore said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "This is a mistake that needs to be rectified, and rectified quickly, and we will."