UPDATE: Three former LASD officers see cruelty case postponed

The Santa Clarita Courthouse. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.

Three former sworn officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department charged last year with cruelty to a prisoner at the Pitchess Detention Center had their cases postponed until June.

The accused men are: James Hawkins, 35; David J. Moser and 62-year-old Rex Taylor, now retired.

Among other actions they are accused of, the three are alleged to allowed an inmate “to defecate while naked and skit in his own feces for an extended period of time without just cause.”

The three men were arrested Sept. 9, 2015, by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau. Each posted bail within a couple of hours of their arrest, according to arrest documents maintained by the LASD’s Inmate Information Center.

The three were later charged on May 16, 2016, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, according to the misdemeanor complaint filed by prosecutors against them.

On Friday, Apr. 7, they saw their court appearance scheduled for Courtroom 2 of the Santa Clarita Courthouse postponed until June 9, Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

In the misdemeanor complaint filed against them, the three men committed a crime of cruel punishment – or treatment impairing health – in their treatment of an inmate named Omar Estrada.

Cruel punishment

Prosecutors allege that between Sept. 5, 2014, and Sept. 6, 2014, the three inflicted treatment which would injure or impair the health of the inmate.

The three officers worked at the Pitchess Detention Center at the time of the alleged incident.

According to the complaint sworn out against them, the three allowed Estrada to remain naked without just cause while tightly waist-chained behind his back attached to a bracket on the wall for four to 12 hours.

The three are also accused of having allowed Estrada to remain handcuffed behind his back with a device that caused nerve damage to his wrist without just cause.

They are also accused of allowing the same inmate to remain waist-chained without just cause for an extended period of time which caused blistering to his stomach area.

The three also, allegedly allowed Estrada to go without food or water for an extended period of time – again without just cause, and that they allowed him to suffer unnecessary pain for an extended period of time as documented in a four-hour video.

Hawkins is charged separately with the charge of assault by a public officer for allegedly inflicting an injury to Estrada’s head.

The three were re-scheduled to appear back in Santa Clarita Courthouse on June 9.

The incident was revealed when investigators began looking at the practice of tethering inmates.


The Office of Inspector General began reviewing the LASD’s policy on “tethering” – or the jail practice of restraining inmates to fixed structure. Investigators released their report in June 2016.

Their review was initiated after LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell was notified of a “disturbing” incident that happened in July 2015 in which a prisoner had been restrained for about 32 hours without food, only one cup of water, and no opportunity to use the restroom, according to the report.

McDonnell relieved 10 jail personnel of duty, including two lieutenants, one sergeant, one senior deputy, four deputies and two custody assistants. A number of other jail staffers were reassigned.

This case, however, was not an isolated incident, the report found.

The Inspector General ended up examining four jailhouse incidents including the one at the Pitchess Detention Center’s North County Correctional Facility on Sept. 4, 2014, which ultimately led to three LASD officers being arrested on suspicion of cruelty.

The incident began when a prisoner detained at the jail was suspected of concealing contraband in his rectum, according to the report.

“As a result, the prisoner was restrained and a ‘pull over’ detention was initiated, isolating him from other prisoners,” the report reads. “The prisoner remained restrained for ‘an extended period of time’ while department personnel waited for him to use the toilet so they could retrieve the potential contraband.”

One county prosecutor interviewed for the report, said the prisoner “suffered injuries to his waist and midsection.”

The three former LASD officers were re-scheduled to appear back in Santa Clarita Courthouse on June 9.


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 on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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