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California jail releases video of guards beating mentally ill inmate after $1.4M lawsuit settlement

The New York Daily News - 3/31/2019

March 31-- Mar. 31--A California jail was compelled to release footage of corrections officers beating and tasing a mentally ill inmate after settling a class-action lawsuit for $1.4M.

After abuse allegations led to three officials at Auburn Main Jail in Auburn, California getting fired, a class-action lawsuit was filed by 500 inmates filed by civil rights attorney Mark Merin. The jail tried to keep records of the abuse out of public view, but were unsuccessful.

A security video released as part of the lawsuit settlement shows guards beating 28-year-old Beau Bangert who was on suicide watch at the time. The video shows Bangert adopting a fighting stance and laughing before guards rush him and knock him into a wall.

As two guards hold Bangert's arms and another holds his neck from behind, a fourth guard punches, kicks, and knees the inmate. At another point Bangert is punched and tased while one arm and is neck are held.

The guard who punches and kicks Bangert places him in a choke hold several times in the video.

As Bangert does not fight back or fall to the ground, four more guards enter the cell and deliver more blows. Finally, the inmate falls to the ground and an officer remarks, "There's blood, be careful."

Later in the video Bangert is shown sitting in a safety chair and wearing a white anti-spitting mask as he is medically examined. Afterward he is wheeled back into the room on the chair and the mask is removed while another officer records images of his face.

'They demonstrated total insensitivity and it was clearly an abusive gang attack on a defenseless individual,' attorney Merin said of Bangert's treatment. 'And it showed absence of training and malevolence on the part of the deputies who participated.'

Two deputies, Jeffrey Villaneuva and Robert Madden, and Sergeant Megan Yawa were fired over the abuse allegations. Yawa was accused of filing false reports, but her case was dismissed. Villaneuva and Madden pleaded no contest to felony assault charges.

"We brought these alleged misdeeds to your attention when they occurred in 2017, and to continue to be transparent," said Lt. Andrew Scott for the Placer County Sheriff's Office in a video statement.

"We wanted to be the first to release these videos to you as well once litigation involving these incidents is over, however some of that litigation is still unresolved."

The judge said that since the three criminal cases for the fired officers were over, the video should be released because there were "no ongoing civil cases whose jury pools might be tainted."

Bangert will receive $50,000 as part of the class action and received a separate $250,000 settlement.

"We are auditing their response to claims of use of force and excessive force, and I think that process will improve the response of the jail personnel to the conduct of inmates," an attorney who worked with Merin said.

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