Two County Probation Officers To Stand Trial in Pepper Spray Case

Judge holding gavel, close-up

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two Los Angeles County probation officers accused of unlawfully using pepper spray on teenage girls housed at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey will stand trial, a judge ruled today.

Following a preliminary hearing that stretched over multiple days, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence against Marlene Rochelle Wilson, 48, and Janeth Vilchez, 51, to proceed to trial.

Some of the counts were dismissed and City News Service could not immediately confirm exactly which charges -- which originally included felony assault by a public officer and misdemeanor child abuse -- will apply at trial.

Prosecutors alleged that the detention services officers were either unreasonable when using pepper spray or prevented the teens from being decontaminated after they were pepper-sprayed.

Four other probation officers who were charged separately – LaCour Harrison, Claudette Reynolds, Maria Asuzena Guerrero and Karnesha Marshall -- were previously acquitted.

The full range of alleged crimes occurred between April 7 and July 21, 2018.

When the charges were announced in 2019, then-Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald issued a statement saying the charges stemmed from a “months-long investigation originated by L.A. County Probation into the unlawful use of force at one of the department's juvenile halls.''

McDonald said her department had a “zero tolerance policy'' for the “improper use of force by staff.''

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in February 2019 to eliminate the use of pepper spray in juvenile halls and camps.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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