Judge Grants Motion to Inspect Some of Deputy's Personnel Records

Brown judge's gavel over stand against wooden background.

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Black teenage girl who was allegedly body- slammed and called an "animal" by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy working as a school resource officer at Lancaster High School in 2021 won a partial victory when a judge said he will review some of the deputy's personnel records and decide which should be turned over to her attorneys.

The plaintiff, born in 2004, is identified only as Jane Doe 1 in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought against the county, the Sheriff's Department, Deputy Daniel Acquilano and the Antelope Valley Union High School District. Judge Armen Tamzarian's ruling came during a hearing Monday on a motion by the plaintiff's attorneys asking that they be allowed to review Acquilano's personnel records.

"If Acquilano has a history of targeting Black students and/or a history of excessive use of force, that information would be undoubtedly relevant in this case," the plaintiff's attorneys stated in their court papers.

The judge said he will inspect the deputy's personnel records specified under his order in chambers on May 16, then decide which ones the LASD must produce to Doe's attorneys.

Among the personnel records Tamzarian will review are those involving complaints of excessive force, bias or discrimination by Acquilano; those relating to any disciplinary actions, any involving retaliatory or criminal behavior on his part; those relevant to his training in the use of force: and those pertaining to his hiring. The judge put a 10-year limit dating back from the present on each category of records.

The judge said he will not review or order the turnover of Acquilano's entire personnel file because the request was too broad, nor will he allow production of records relating to his placement at Lancaster High because the information is irrelevant.

In their court papers in opposition to the motion to produce the deputy's records, attorneys for the county stated that Acquilano "used force against Jane Doe 1 when she refused to give him her cell phone and walked away from him at Lancaster High School."

In her declaration, the plaintiff says she asked the deputy to cite her at the Lancaster sheriff's station and then take her home rather than to juvenile hall.

"In response, (Deputy) Acquilano said to me, `You're an animal ... and you belong there,"' the plaintiff says. "He was referring to me belonging at juvenile hall. I believe he referred to me as an `animal' and sent me, the victim, to juvenile hall because I am Black. I believe he would not call a white person an `animal' and would not have sent a white teenager to juvenile hall who behaved in the same innocent manner as me."

Although another deputy opposed taking the plaintiff to juvenile hall, Acquilano instructed a colleague to drive for two hours to Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, where she was "booked and put in a jail cell until my mom came to pick me up later in the evening," the plaintiff says.

Attorneys for the county and the district deny any liability and state that the plaintiff is not entitled to damages, according to their court papers.

The incident was recorded on video and occurred Aug. 30, 2021, when the plaintiff was 16 years old. Doe's mother was forced to look for alternative education for her daughter through independent study because the district has not removed Acquilano from Lancaster High, the suit states.

In a separate ruling Thursday, Tamzarian allowed the plaintiff's attorneys to file an amended complaint adding additional claims against the county for retaliation and abuse of process. In their court papers, Doe's attorneys stated that the LASD has issued her a series of citations for allegedly threatening an officer despite decisions by the District Attorney's Office to not bring a criminal case against the girl.

"After the district attorney declined to prosecute plaintiff, it has become apparent that LASD's repeated issuance of citations to plaintiff were a means of intimidation, retaliation and harassment," according to Doe's attorneys, who further stated in their court papers that the teen has since turned 18 and the complaint needs to be further amended to reflect that fact.

None of the defense attorneys objected to the filing of the amended complaint. Trial is scheduled Nov. 1.

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