Aryan Brotherhood inmates claim jailers ‘harassing’ them, not providing COVID-19 protection

Tribune Content Agency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — While the Sacramento sheriff’s office is releasing hundreds of non-violent inmates because of the coronavirus crisis, some of the harder cases inside are complaining about their treatment and exposure to the disease.

In a filing in federal court this week, attorneys for 11 defendants arrested last year in an alleged Aryan Brotherhood murder and drug-smuggling conspiracy say their clients are being mistreated and were unfairly rousted from their cells at midnight two weeks ago by sheriff’s deputies.

“In the middle of the night, between March 11 and March 12, 2020, each of the defendants housed on 8 West were awoken by guards screaming, yelling at them to ‘cuff up’ and pointing guns into their cells,” the filing says. “Sheriff’s deputies had flashlights affixed to the ends of their rifles, their rifles trained on each person, and deputies wore tactical gear and masks.”

The inmates were held for hours while deputies went through their cells and “destroyed hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars of commissary and made a jumble out of each man’s (court) discovery and personal possessions,” court document say.

“Almost no contraband was found,” the documents say. “Allegedly one individual had two glasses of ‘wine’ in his cell.”

The defendants, five of whom are accused of murders as part of the racketeering allegations, heard the search was prompted over a missing screw “the size of a tic-tac,” the documents say.

“The sheriff’s department conduct amounts to nothing more than harassment and an attempt to provoke,” the defendants’ lawyers wrote. “Their conduct is outrageous, unwarranted and wholly lacking in justification.”

Sheriff Scott Jones’ office referred a request for comment to Jones’ previous remarks. This is not the first instance of the defendants complaining about their treatment inside the jail — one went to court to get his tennis shoes returned to him rather than wear jail-issued orange Crocs — and Jones has made his views on their complaints plain in the past.

“While I can certainly appreciate this group’s frustration that they do not get to enjoy all the freedoms they had in the California prison system — that same system, incidentally, where they were able to carry out the extraordinarily heinous crimes that they are now being charged with — they are treated and housed according to their charges and in-custody conduct,” Jones said last year.

“Further, all are receiving what is required under state and federal law, and all have processes available to them to address any grievance, enjoy unfettered access to their attorneys, and acquire any medically necessary treatment.”

But that was before the coronavirus pandemic, and lawyers for the inmates say they are now unable to meet with their clients because of restrictions at the jail. They want them “transferred to a federal facility where they will not be subject to the harsh and inhumane conditions of the Sacramento County jail.”

One inmate has gone further.

Samuel Keeton, an alleged Aryan Brotherhood associate charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin for Aryan Brotherhood leaders in prison while he was out on parole, filed a motion Wednesday seeking his immediate release on bail because he suffers from severe asthma and could be particularly susceptible to COVID-19.

“Our clients are reporting that they are being denied access to hygiene cleaning items since the pandemic was announced,” attorney David Fischer wrote in a motion seeking Keeton’s release to home detention in Southern California. “Inmates are locked down in response to the encroaching pandemic, which means that they are denied showers and other means to help protect themselves against a disease.

“Additionally, Mr. Keeton has personally witnessed the medical staff not practicing proper sanitary practices. The staff distributes medication from inmate to inmate without wearing gloves or masks.”

The sheriff’s office has said no inmates have tested positive for coronavirus inside its two jails, but it released 120 inmates last week and is in the process of releasing 421 additional prisoners under directives from a Sacramento Superior Court judge.


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