LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – A jury in Los Angeles today convicted three former correctional officers at Chino State Prison on federal charges related to a 2002 incident in which shackled inmates were hurled to the ground.
Robert McGowan, 38, of Apple Valley, was convicted of two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law for assaulting two inmates. McGowan and two former colleagues – Thomas Ramos, 51, of Montclair, and Hector Flores, 39, residence unknown – were found guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice for attempting to cover up the incident.
The convictions follow a May 9, 2002 incident of abuse after an altercation involving inmates and correctional officers at the Chino prison. Once the altercation was controlled, several prisoners were shackled, placed in a van and transported to the administrative segregation unit at the prison facility. Once the van arrived at the special unit, McGowan pulled two prisoners from the van and let them fall to the ground. Because they were shackled, the prisoners were not able to break their falls. They each sustained minor injuries.
Two weeks after the incident, Ramos, who was McGowan’s superior, submitted a memorandum to prison officials in which he stated that an inmate assaulted by McGowan had slipped, when Ramos knew that McGowan had actualy thrown the inmate to the ground.
Flores initially told a federal grand jury investigating the incident that he saw McGowan assault an inmate, but he later told investigators that he too had assaulted an inmate.
“This office will vigorously uphold the civil rights of everyone in this District,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “We simply cannot tolerate rogue correctional officers beating up prison inmates and then attempting to cover up their actions.”
As a result of today’s convictions, McGowan faces a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, while Ramos and Flores face up to five years in prison. United States District Judge Manuel Real, who presided over the week-long trial, scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 14.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Tammy C. Spertus
Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence S. Middleton