L.A. County jail panel seems likely with Antonovich announcement
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich announced Monday that he would appoint a retired federal judge to an independent commission examining the scope of brutality in the sheriff's jails.
He made the announcement, however, before the board has even voted to create the commission, which was proposed by Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas. If Antonovich's announcement means he plans to vote in favor of establishing the proposed five-member panel, the measure will have enough votes to pass Tuesday.
The proposal for an independent commission comes in response to growing scrutiny of alleged inmate abuse and other deputy misconduct inside the county jail system. The Times has reported that the FBI is investigating several allegations of inmate beatings, 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.
Public concerns over the allegations gained momentum after The Times reported that the FBI sneaked a cellphone to a jail inmate who was a federal informant.
Sheriff Lee Baca initially criticized the FBI after the phone was discovered and defended his department's record in the jails, but has since said h'’s open to outside scrutiny, including a board-appointed independent panel.
The supervisors who proposed the commission said it would help restore public confidence in how the 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. Antonovich could not be reached for comment.
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.
Although he is considered tough on crime, Tevrizian has taken action on behalf of inmates he concluded had been prosecuted unfairly, according to Times archives.
In 2003, he overturned the second-degree murder conviction of Thomas L. Goldstein, who had served 24 years for a Long Beach slaying.
That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court and in 2004 Goldstein was released after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office concluded that it had no case against him.
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca meets with inmates at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles early this month. Credit: Irfan Khan