OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A judge on Friday ordered two former Alameda County sheriff’s deputies to stand trial on a single felony assault charge for allegedly allowing an inmate to throw feces and urine at another inmate in a maximum security unit at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin two years ago.
At the end of a short preliminary hearing for Sarah Krause, 27, and Stephen Sarcos, 31, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson denied a request by their attorneys to reduce the assault charge to a misdemeanor.
Defense attorneys for Krause and Sarcos admitted that the two former deputies engaged in misconduct in September 2016 but said their actions weren’t felonies.
Krause’s attorney Paul Goyette said Krause “engaged in misconduct and used poor judgment but it’s not felony misconduct.”
But prosecutor Tim Wagstaffe objected to treating the case as a misdemeanor, saying, “This crime violates the trust of inmates and the community.”
Wagstaffe said, “It is absolutely disgusting to participate in the gassing of another person,” using the term to describe throwing feces and urine at someone.
Wagstaffe said, “It’s absolutely foul.”
Sheriff’s Detective Patrick Smyth, the only witness at the hearing, testified that the gassing involved an inmate who had an ongoing feud with fellow inmate Johnny Bowie.
Smyth said Bowie had been “very disrespectful” to Krause and the other inmate told her that he wanted to get back at Bowie and gas him.
Smyth said Krause agreed to the inmate’s plan and opened his cell door and the inmate then walked upstairs with her to Bowie’s cell.
Krause then opened the door to Bowie’s cell and the other inmate threw a cup of feces and a cup or urine at him, although it missed Bowie, Smyth testified.
Goyette said Bowie “seemed to hate” Krause from the start and she was afraid of him because he constantly threatened her.
Goyette said the inmate who tried to gas Bowie was “a sophisticated inmate” who used Krause and Sarcos, who he said were young an inexperienced, to further his feud with Bowie.
Sarcos’ attorney Joshua Olander said Sarcos was “an inexperienced young deputy who was trying to find his way and earn the trust of his colleagues but unfortunately lacked the judgment and courage to stop it (the attempted gassing).
Olander said Sarcos admitted his conduct voluntarily and resigned shortly after the attempted gassing came to light and said a felony conviction would be “devastating to him” because he has to support two children and his wife, who has health issues.
Jacobson said he understands that Krause and Sarcos “paid a high price” by resigning and ending their law enforcement careers but he believes their conduct merits a trial on a felony charge, not a misdemeanor charge.
Jacobson said it was dangerous to open the cell doors of two inmates at the high security unit and said somebody might have been killed because Bowie wanted to go after the inmate who gassed him but fortunately deputies were able to lock his door before he could do so.
Two other former deputies, Justin Linn, 25, of Tracy, and Erik McDermott, 28, of Concord, are also charged in the same case but will have a separate preliminary hearing in January because they face more serious charges.
Linn is charged with four counts of felony assault by a public officer, one count of dissuading a witness by force or threat and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and McDermott is charged with two counts of assault and one count each of dissuading a witness and conspiracy.
Last week former inmate Miguel Soria filed a lawsuit against Linn, McDermott, Sarcos and Krause for allegedly allowing another inmate to gas him in a separate gassing at Santa Rita in 2016.
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