LACo Seeks Dismissal of Claims by Eight Deputies Over Internal Gang Claims

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Almost 3 1/2 years after the case was filed, lawyers for Los Angeles County are seeking dismissal of all claims made by eight sheriff's deputies who allege they were pressured to quit or leave the East Los Angeles Station by members of a clique of mostly Latino deputies known as the Banditos.

"The undisputed facts show no adverse employment action, no discrimination, no severe or pervasive harassment, no retaliation, no outrageous conduct, no severe emotional distress, no violent threats, no duty of care, no assault or battery in the course of employment, and no deprivation of rights," county attorneys argue in court papers filed Friday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco, who is scheduled to hear the county's motion March 6.

The plaintiffs are Deputies Art Hernandez, Alfred Gonzalez, Benjamin Zaredini, David Casas, Louis Granados, Mario Contreras, Oscar Escobedo and Ariela Lemus. They seek unspecified damages on allegations that include racial discrimination, harassment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations.

The plaintiffs' lawsuit, originally filed in September 2019, names as defendants Los Angeles County and Rafael "Rene" Munoz, Gregory Rodriguez, David Silverio and Michael Hernandez. The suit deals in large part with the events that allegedly occurred during a September 2018 training session at Kennedy Hall, an East Los Angeles event venue, at which the plaintiffs maintain the individual defendants violently attacked them.

Banditos gang members "sucker-punched" Art Hernandez and "knocked him out cold," then kicked him while he was unconscious and unable to defend himself, according to the plaintiffs' court papers. The suit alleges the assailants also grabbed Escobedo from behind twice and choked him unconscious in a manner that could have killed him.

The plaintiffs were threatened and bullied in attempts to get them to conform to a "corrupt culture," were denied needed backup on dangerous calls, and were "shaken down" and ordered to pay taxes to the gang, according to the suit. Some plaintiffs allege they were hit and choked unconscious.

But in their court papers, county attorneys argue the county is not responsible for anything that allegedly happened to the plaintiffs at Kennedy Hall.

"The county cannot be held liable for the fight since none of the people involved were acting within the scope of their employment with the department, not the plaintiffs or the Individual defendants," the county attorneys state in their court papers. "The party was voluntary -- LASD did not require anyone to go. It was planned and funded by the deputies. None of the attendees were on-duty. And it took place at a site not owned or operated by the County."

The county put the Individual defendants on administrative leave, investigated the incident and then fired the individual defendants for their involvement, according to the county attorneys' court papers.

The plaintiffs also allege they were given excessive calls, sent hostile messages, forced to perform unpaid overtime and denied promotions and transfers.

"But they have no evidence for any of these (allegations)," the county lawyers state in their court papers. "And their own discovery responses prove none suffered an adverse employment action."

The plaintiffs also allege the Banditos are an all-Latino gang that targets young Latinos for harassment, but the county lawyers state in their court papers that the eight actually never heard a single comment or insult about their being Latino.

In reality, the Banditos admitted members of all races and treated all non-Banditos the same, regardless of race, and the plaintiffs were harassed only after they spoke out against them and not because they are Latinos, the county lawyers state in their court papers.

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