SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies arranged and gambled on fights between San Francisco jail inmates and told them to lie if they needed medical attention, an official said.
Public defender Jeff Adachi, an elected official, said that over the past few weeks at least four deputies at San Francisco County Jail threatened inmates with violence or withheld food if they did not fight, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
Adachi said the ringleader in the fights was Deputy Scott Neu, who was accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to perform sexual acts on him. That case was settled out of court.
Harry Stern, an attorney for the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the union representing deputies, told The Associated Press on Friday in an email that there “wasn’t a ring to be the leader of.”
Stern also said in a statement that claims by Adachi were exaggerated and the fighting was little more than horseplay.
Adachi said the four deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Inmate Ricardo Palikiko Garcia said he was forced to fight and that Neu “gets a kick out of it.” The fights allegedly took place in a hallway that was blocked from view.
“It looks like it brings him joy by doing this, while we’re suffering by what he’s doing,” Garcia told the newspaper.
Garcia, who is in custody on drug and gun possession charges, said that in early March he was twice forced to fight another inmate.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said he was “extremely disturbed” about the allegation. The department’s internal affairs unit is investigating and the sheriff is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to do an independent investigation as well.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Greg Suhr said he received the report from Adachi and his department will be investigating to see if there is any criminal wrongdoing. District Attorney George Gascón called the allegations deplorable.
Stern said in his statement that a deputy might have encouraged one inmate to work out and allowed two inmates to wrestle in order to settle a dispute about who was stronger.
“There was no betting,” said Stern. “The inmates were never forced to work out. They were never forced to fight.”