SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX/CBS SF) – The investigation involving three sheriff’s deputies accused of making inmates battle each other ‘gladiator-style’ was so botched, the San Francisco District Attorney is dropping all charges.
The allegations first made headlines in 2016, after 3 inmates accused Eugene Jones, Clifford Chiba and former deputy Scott Neu of running a bizarre ‘fight club’ inside County Jail No. 4, located on the 7th floor of the Hall of Justice.
According to Public Defender Jeff Adachi, the deputies “arranged and gambled on fights between inmates during a two-day period” in March 2015. Plaintiffs Ricardo Palikiko-Garcia, Stanley Harris and Keith Richardson claimed the deputies “threatened inmates with violence or withheld food if they didn’t fight each other for the deputies’ amusement.”
Neu, the alleged ringleader faced up to 10 years in prison.
“Neu was later fired, Jones was suspended without pay, and Chiba was placed in a position where he does not have contact with inmates,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A civil lawsuit was filed by the inmates and the city settled it for $90,000 in September 2016.
The DA’s case was problematic from the start, due to issues concerning “compelled statements” given by the deputies early in the investigation that may have violated their Fifth Amendment rights.
Prosecutors learned some evidence was destroyed. A laptop hard drive containing important emails was allegedly destroyed by “smashing it with a hammer.”
Still, the District Attorney’s office said new charges are still possible.
“What we’re going to do now is, we’re going to take all the tainted evidence, we’re going to put it to the side.” said Assistant DA Alex Bastion. “We’re going to provide the rest of the evidence to our Independent Investigations Bureau so that they can proceed with the investigation in this case.”
A lawyer for former deputy Neu acknowledged that fighting did happen, but he said his client was just allowing inmates to wrestle as a way to blow off steam.
Inmates have filed complaints about Neu before.
Back in 2006, the city of San Francisco settled a case out of court over allegations Neu forced inmates to perform sex acts on him.