by Carlos E. Castañeda

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies have been organizing jail inmate fights and gambling on the outcomes, according to the city’s public defender.

At a hastily-arranged press conference Thursday, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said that deputies at the city’s jail at the Hall of Justice were involved in setting up gladiator-style fights and betting on who would win.

“I can only describe this an an outrageously sadistic scenario,” said Adachi.

He said four deputies were involved in staging the fights and the ringleader was Deputy Scott Neu, who was accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to perform oral sex on him. That case was settled out of court in 2009.

In the complaint, one inmate, Stanley Harris, described part of the ordeal:

“…while I’m incarcerated, Deputy Neu made me fight another individual that we’re – we’re housed in the same tank. He made us fight. We had like two fights already. It’s like, uh, he would make us go to like a – like a (inaudible) to where nobody can see, and he would make us just wrestle and fight each other to his own entertainment.”

Inmates told investigators the deputies would threaten them with beatings, handcuffing or pepper spray if they did not participate in the fights, Adachi said.

The inmate accusations were not going to be made public until the inmates were out of custody, but his Adachi said his office learned that another fight was planned for next week.

In a letter sent to Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Adachi requested “that you take immediate action and at a minimum, remove the deputies involved from any position where they have any contact with prisoners, including the clients they have harmed.”

In the letter, Adachi said at least one inmate had been injured with a possible cracked rib.

Sheriff Mirkarimi, who spoke after Adachi’s presentation, said he will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to help in the investigation and determine whether a culture exists within his department that promotes or facilitates unlawful behavior among corrections officers.

“I do not accept any kind of culture within our county jail system that would resort to such barbaric or unlawful acitivity as these deputies have demonstrated,” said Mirkarimi, who added the department has reassigned the four deputies accused pending the investigation.

The two inmates who spoke with investigators were also moved to another jail facility.

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