Six Inmates File $180 Million Lawsuit Citing Sadistic Treatment At Jail

(May 8)  Six inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga were subjected to such horrific treatment at the hands of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies that they should collectively recover a total of $180-million, according to a federal  lawsuit filed on their behalf.
Named as defendants in the suit are San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, West Valley Detention Center commander captain Jeff Rose, six deputies identified by the last names of Teychea, Oakley, Copas, Escomilla, Morris, Snell, and Strifler, as well as two civilian jailers with the last names of Stockman and Neil, along with the county of San Bernardino and up to ten yet to be identified members of the department. The Sentinel has learned that the seven  deputies referenced in the suit, in some cases with variant spellings of their names, are Brock Teyechea, Nicholas Oakley, Russell Kopasz, Robert Escamilla,  Robert Morris, Eric Smale, and Daniel Stryffeler. An eighth deputy,  Andrew Cruz, was identified as one of the unnamed defendants. Brandon Stockman was identified as one of the unsworn civilian jailers.
The plaintiffs in the case are John Hanson, Lamar Graves, Brandon Schilling, Christopher J. Sly, Eddie Caldero and Michael Mesa, all of whom were housed at West Valley between January 1, 2013 and the end of March 2014. They are represented by attorney Stan Hodge, Jim Terrell and Sharon Bruner. Hodge, a former Superior Court judge, was a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office before he was elevated to the bench.
“During the plaintiffs’ incarceration,” the lawsuit states, “the plaintiffs were subjected by defendants to beatings, torture including but not limited to extending the handcuffed arms behind the plaintiffs causing extraordinary pain to plaintiff’s body, electric shock, including electric shock to their genitalia, sleep deprivation, had shotguns placed to their heads and sodomy. All these actions were taken without any legitimate purpose. The defendants thereby deprived the plaintiffs the right to be free from punishment without due process of law pursuant to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The suit alleges that “As a direct and proximate result of the conduct of the defendants the plaintiffs have suffered extreme physical and emotional injury. The conduct of the defendants was willful, malicious and designed to inflict pain.”
The suit further alleges that the treatment the inmates underwent “were applications of unreasonable and unlawful force and deprived the plaintiffs of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the  Constitution of the United States.”
The treatment was institutionalized, the lawsuit states, in that both the sheriff and those supervising the jail had knowledge of the activity.
“The defendant John McMahon and the defendant Jeff rose and their subordinate administrators sued herein had knowledge that the abusive conduct by which the plaintiffs were deprived of their civil rights were taking place and were going to take place in the future and failed to take any action to cause the violation of plaintiffs’ rights to be prevented.”
The suit maintains the defendants conduct “was under the color of state law. Each of the individual defendants are being sued in their individual capacity as well as their official capacity.”
Language in the suit suggests that the mistreatment of the prisoners was documented by medical treatment subsequently provided to them.  “Those plaintiffs who were permitted by the defendants to obtain medical treatment had to receive such treatment due to the conduct of the defendants,” the lawsuit states.
The suit seeks $15 million in compensatory damages for physical, mental and emotional injury to each plaintiff and $15 million for exemplary and punitive damages for each defendant, in addition to attorney fees.
A spokeswoman for the department declined comment on the suit, which was filed on May 7, roughly two months after reports of abuse at the facility resulted in the FBI launching an investigation into the matter.  In early April, reliable sources told the Sentinel that during the early stages of that inquiry, three deputies were “walked off” the grounds of the facility by federal agents. Those three deputies, who have now been identified as Teyechea, Oakley and Cruz, were terminated on the strength of the FBI’s initial findings. Another deputy reportedly voluntarily resigned, according to one of the sources, who is knowledgeable about department operations. That source also reported that sheriff’s department personnel acting as guards at the recently opened Adelanto Detention Facility had used mace against inmates while they were in their cells.

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