San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said today that a sheriff’s deputy implicated in forcing inmates to participate in staged fights has been recommended for termination.
A notice of termination proceedings was served on Tuesday to Deputy Sheriff Scott Neu, who is among the deputies accused of twice forcing inmates to fight at San Francisco County Jail No. 4 located on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St.
As of Wednesday, Deputy Neu is no longer on paid administrative leave, but three other deputies accused of involvement in the incident, who were initially placed on paid administrative leave, are returning to work, albeit in non-public roles.
The sheriff’s office will now conduct a due process hearing before a final determination on Neu’s firing is made.
According to the sheriff’s office, their internal investigation into the level of involvement of the three other deputy sheriffs, Eugene Jones, Clifford Chiba and Evan Staehely, remains ongoing.
Mirkarimi did not indicate the status of the investigation into additional two others, Deputy Francisco Aquino and Deputy Crystal Collins, who allegedly looked the other way when they saw a staged inmate fight happening.
According to Mirkarimi, his office will not be pursuing a criminal investigation, but will instead leave it in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Mirkarimi has said he reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice and invited the FBI to investigate as soon as he learned of the allegations from San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi on March 26.
Adachi said his office was alerted to the alleged deputy-orchestrated inmate fights by the father of an inmate via email on March 12 and launched a private investigation into the allegations.
When Adachi discovered the possibility of an upcoming fight, he immediately alerted Mirkarimi to the allegations to ensure the inmates’ safety.
Adachi has also pointed to previous misconduct by Neu dating back to 2006 that he said should have resulted in his termination, but did not.
Adachi said Neu has previously been accused of sexually assaulting a male and female inmate, but that that the lawsuits against him were settled by the city for $97,000 and that Neu remained in his post at the county jail.
The FBI, the San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office are all continuing to investigate the allegations.
FBI special agent Greg Wuthrich said the bureau “has a much heavier hand” than local entities that would lead to a “much heavier penalty” if the allegations are found to be true.
Mirkarimi announced last week that San Francisco sheriff’s deputies working as jail guards in San Francisco County Jail No. 4, where the alleged fights occurred, could be the first county jail guards in California to wear body-worn cameras.
At a news conference today, Mirkarimi he showed off a sample body-mounted camera and said the mayor has for two years ignored his requests for city government approval of and funding for body-mounted cameras.
He said that the allegations, as well as a recent inmate escape, have forced him to move forward without the mayor’s support.
Mirkarimi also said today that his request for the FBI to investigate the March 23rd escape of inmate Alexander Santiago-Gonzales, has been granted.
He said a $5 million warrant has been issued for Santiago-Gonzales’ arrest and law enforcement is following up on leads on his whereabouts, Mirkarimi said.
A deputy who ignored protocol that led to the escape of the inmate from the jail is also in the process of termination and may face criminal charges, Mirkarimi said.
Mirkarimi said deputies need to be held accountable and that the body-mounted camera pilot program, which he anticipates beginning within three months, will do just that.
“People under our lock and key deserve respect and humane treatment or else we risk fueling the criminality we strive to abate,” Mirkarimi said in a statement released today.
He said modernized training, policy reforms that dissuade misconduct, and the political will to correct abuse of power will also be crucial in seeing long-lasting change.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News