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Independent probe of jail brutality claims could be approved today

October 18, 2011 |  7:59 am

Lawman

Amid growing allegations of deputy brutality on prisoners in the Los Angeles County Jail system, the county's Board of Supervisors could approve the formation of an independent investigating committee as early as Tuesday.

The independent panel would review jail abuse allegations, already under investigation by the FBI, and suggest reforms.

L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich announced his choice for the appointment he would be called upon to make to the commission, which was proposed by Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas. If Antonovich's announcement was a signal that he plans to vote in favor of establishing the proposed five-member panel, the measure will have enough votes to pass at a meeting Tuesday.

Full coverage: Jails under scrutiny

Public concerns over the allegations gained momentum after The Times reported that the FBI was able to sneak a cellphone to an inmate who was a federal informant. The plant came as federal authorities investigate several allegations of inmate abuse and other deputy misconduct, including an incident in which a jail monitor said she witnessed deputies knock an inmate unconscious and then continue to beat him for two minutes.

Sheriff Lee Baca initially criticized the FBI after the phone was discovered and defended his department's record in operating the jails. But he has since said that he was open to outside scrutiny, including a Board of Supervisors-appointed independent panel.

The supervisors who proposed the commission said it would help restore public confidence in how the county's jails are run and provide a road map for reform.

"It's abundantly clear that the Sheriff's Department needs a fresh pair of eyes to help it ensure the rights of the inmates," Ridley-Thomas has said.

If the commission is approved, each supervisor would be able to appoint one member. Antonovich said his pick would be retired federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian. Tevrizian, a Pasadena resident, was nominated to the bench by President Reagan and served for more than two decades before retiring in 2007.

The longtime Republican presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the corruption case of former Democratic Assemblyman Bruce Young of Norwalk and the government's prosecution of Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano.

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— Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard

Photo: Sheriff Lee Baca. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles TImes

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