BY TROY MASTERS | A gay Los Angeles County man says that after his March 2015 arrest he was held in a small closet with several other inmates and no seating. He claims he was told it was for his “own protection” but was called a “fucking faggot” by a deputy who assaulted him when he asked for a chair.
Anthony Oliver, 33, filed a federal civil rights complaint on December 17, 2015 in which he claims straight inmates are placed in larger cells with a private toilet, a TV, phone and reading material.
Los Angeles County jails and court detainees who are LGBT are placed in a separate facility called “K6G.”Oliver is gay, disabled and wears a back brace.
“In the Metro traffic courthouse, ‘K6G’ inmates are treated far worse than that of general population,” Oliver says in his complaint. “At the time plaintiff was taken to court in 2015, plaintiff was housed, like other LGBT inmates, in a small room with one stool, the size of a mop closet, awaiting his court appearance. The room was formerly an attorney-client meeting room with only one stool, and was converted for use by the LA County Sheriff’s Department for LGBT inmates at the time of the incident.
“Plaintiff is informed and believes that in some of the court lock-ups in the Los Angeles County Superior Courts, ‘K6G’ inmates are kept, instead of cells, in ‘utility rooms’ or ‘mop closets’ that are separate from the holding cells that are designed to accommodate non-LGBT inmates awaiting court appearances,” Oliver’s complaint continues.
“There is no reason for housing ‘K6G’ inmates in non-cell facilities, as opposed to having a segregated cell or holding tank where they can be housed awaiting court,” the complaint maintains.
“Among other things, ‘K6G’ inmates endure substantially worse conditions of confinement simply because they are LGBT persons and members of the gay community, or are transgender and have a different sexual identity. The conditions and treatment the ‘K6G’ inmates are subjected to in the court lock-ups should not be tolerated. LGBT inmates are being discriminated against intentionally based on their status as a result of this custody arrangement.
“Although the county and department owe a duty to protect LGBT inmates from harm by providing protection, that does not allow LGBT persons to be subjected to worse conditions of incarceration,” says Oliver in the complaint.
In addition to being placed in the ‘mop closet,’ Oliver says he was treated harshly and physically so by one of the guards while waiting to make his court appearance.
Oliver claims he was recovering from back surgery and in a back brace when he was arrested. He was placed in the closet sized room with two other men and because there was only one stool, he requested a chair from guards. He says one guard called him a “fucking faggot” before lifting him off the ground, slamming him against the wall and placing him back in the cell.
Oliver says other deputies witnessed the assault but did nothing. When he complained to a supervisor he was threatened and warned not to report the assault, according to the complaint.
Oliver says the assault caused further damage to his back, requiring surgery.
The sheriff’s department is aware of the “brutal, unconstitutional practices” inflicted on LGBT inmates at detention facilities but has failed to curb the problem, the complaint says.
Los Angeles County treats “LGBT people much different than any other inmates in violation of their equal protection rights under the law,” according to the complaint.
Oliver’s suit also names Sheriff Jim McDonnell; Court Services Bureau commander Kevin Goran; watch commander Jeff Adams; and deputies Isaias Marin, Jr, Don Manumaleuna, Michael Kassabian, Nancy Aleman, Gerald Denson, Steven Kale and R. Alvarez as defendants.
The lawsuit includes claims for civil rights violations, supervisorial liability, an Americans with Disabilities Act claim and assault and battery. Oliver seeks general, compensatory and statutory damages, as well as punitive damages against individual defendants.
UCLA’s Williams Institute highlighted a 2013 article published by Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology that claims the Compared to life in the general population, K6G inmates live relatively free of sexual assault and are free to express their personal identity and sense of self in a way that is psychologically healthier than the typical prison experience.
Oliver is represented by David McLane of Kaye, McLane, Bednarski, & Litt in Pasadena, California.
In 2014, McLane and the American Civil Liberties Union represented 15 gay, bisexual and transgender inmates at a San Bernardino County jail, in a class action claiming the county routinely subjected LGBT inmates to harsh treatment.