Sheriff's deputy attorney denies claims of 'gladiator-style' fights at SF County jail 

click to enlarge An attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff's Deputies Association responded late Thursday to the allegations that several of its members had bet on fights between inmates. - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • An attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff's Deputies Association responded late Thursday to the allegations that several of its members had bet on fights between inmates.
An attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Deputies Association responded late Thursday to what he called “exaggerated” allegations that several of its members had bet on fights between inmates that deputies planned, and encouraged inmates to train for, at the county jail.

Attorney Harry Stern disputed all claims made by Public Defender Jeff Adachi Wednesday that deputies hosted a “gladiator-style” inmate fight club. In a statement, the attorney said deputies may have encouraged inmates to work out and wrestle, but the “‘wrestling’ was essentially little more than horseplay.”

“There was no betting,” Stern said. “The inmates were never forced to work out. They were never forced to fight.”

Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced Thursday an ongoing investigation into four sheriff’s deputies accused of hosting the “gladiator-style” fights. Adachi said he called the press conference to prevent planned fights from further injuring the men involved.

Adachi revealed transcripts of his jailhouse calls with two inmates, who said they were threatened with violence if they did not fight, and promised food and better treatment as a reward if they did. The fights that were reported to have begun March 3.

But Attorney Stern contended in a statement that Adachi’s press conference was a one-sided trial of the deputies, who were not ensured their due process.

“[Adachi] has done a cursory sham investigation by interviewing a few inmates over a scant two days rather than having the decency to request a serious impartial investigation,” Stern said. “The investigators would have had the opportunity to interview witnesses including the accused deputies and look for physical evidence.”

Whether or not the incidents happened, the District Attorney’s Office called the allegations “deplorable” and asked for an independent investigation into the practices and supervision of the SFSD.

“Common sense indicates that such conduct does not occur without the knowledge of numerous people,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement.

Deputy Scott Nue, who was accused in a 2006 civil-rights lawsuit of sexually tormenting several inmates at County Jail, stands accused as the ringleader of the fights alongside Clifford Chiba, a Deputy Jones and Deputy Staehly (whose first names are unconfirmed).

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told The San Francisco Examiner that the four deputies were transferred to positions where they would not interact with inmates.

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