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Lawsuit Alleges Widespread Sexual Abuse in L.A. County Juvenile Hall System

“The latest allegations of sexual abuse...bring new meaning to the notion that what happens in the dark must come to the light.” 

- Esché Jackson, Vice Chair, L.A. County Probation Oversight Commission

Nearly 300 plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual abuse in the Los Angeles County juvenile detention system, dating from the 1970s through 2018. The 279 plaintiffs, both male and female former detainees in the L.A. County juvenile system, say they were sexually abused by probation and detention officers at several juvenile hall detention facilities and camps over the last five decades.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article on the lawsuit, the victims allege repeated instances of fondling, rape, and other sexual acts at the hands of officers and staff in the Los Angeles County Probation Department, which oversees the system of camps and detention centers. Some victims say they were abused by multiple officers, while others point to serial abuse by a particular staff member. 

The new lawsuit was filed December 20, 2022 after a 2020 California law created a suspension of the state’s normal 40-year statute of limitations in such cases. The temporary law effectively created a three-year window of time for civil lawsuits to be filed through 2022.

Common Types of Assault Cases

Assault can include a one-time incident, or ongoing abuse over a period of time, as is the case with the current claims against L.A. County. Assault can occur in a wide range of circumstances. Common types of assault cases include:

  • Assault by a celebrity
  • Assault at a party
  • Assault by police
  • Assault by a security guard
  • Dog bite cases
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault

Damages Incurred by Assault Victims

Assault victims often suffer a range of physical and emotional damages, whether the attack was  a one-time incident or was characterized by recurring abuse over many years. Damages commonly associated with assault cases include:

  • Medical expenses resulting from the assault
  • Rehabilitation expenses resulting from the incident(s)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Lost income due to time out of work from the incident 

As a law firm founded on the principle of giving voice to the voiceless and standing up to powerful entities on behalf of injury victims, the assault lawyers at Carpenter & Zuckerman are fiercely dedicated to fighting the perpetrators of sexual assault, and all forms of assault. Contact CZ Law today  for a FREE consultation to learn how our team of formidable assault lawyers can fight for justice in your case.

When Abuse is Carried Out by Authority: Who Is Liable?

Abuse Under the “Color of Authority”

Many of the L.A. County juvenile victims’ stories share striking similarities of officers attempting to silence the victims with promises of early release from detention, the reward of special privileges, or the threat of punishment if they spoke up. According to Douglas Rochen of ACTS Law, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, “The county has essentially created a safe haven in which these abusers have been able to hunt ... victims in a closed environment much like a bird in a cage.” 

The alleged sexual assault claims represent a grave violation of the victim’s rights; they also carry an added significance given that the alleged assaults were carried out “under the color of authority” — that is, by county employees acting in an official capacity with power over their victims. This special circumstance of assault  under the guise of authority carries the potential for a heavier sentence if the perpetrators are convicted.

In the wake of the most recent lawsuit, Los Angeles Times quoted Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn commenting: “The officers responsible for this abuse need to be held accountable. They have no business working for the county, and they should face criminal charges.”

Determining Liability & Pressing Assault Charges

Victims of assault can sue the responsible party as well as any liable third parties in a civil personal injury lawsuit, in addition to prosecuting the perpetrator on criminal charges. Determining the liable party in an assault case depends on a number of circumstances, including:

  • Who assaulted you
  • Who is responsible for the person who assaulted you
  • Where the assault took place

A Carpenter & Zuckerman veteran assault lawyer can evaluate the specific circumstances of your assault case to determine the liable party, as well as explain your options for holding the perpetrator accountable and pursuing rightful compensation.

A History of Sexual Abuse Claims Against L.A. County Juvenile System

Prior Lawsuits Against L.A. County

The recent lawsuit is not the first time sexual abuse has been alleged in the Los Angeles County juvenile hall system. Earlier in 2022, two lawsuits were filed by 70 women who claim they, along with male detainees, were sexually abused by male and female officers at Camp Scott and other L.A. County detention facilities. One victim alleged she was impregnated by a Camp Scott deputy probation officer while detained at the facility as a teenager. In the lawsuit, victims said they were abused by at least 10 L.A. County officers at Camp Scott between 1996 and 2008. 

Commenting on the alleged sexual abuse at Camp Scott, Jo Kaplan, former commissioner of L.A. County’s Probation Oversight Commission told the Los Angeles Times, “It does not surprise me. The conditions were horrible. The probation department heads at the time allowed children’s lives to be ruined every day.” In response to the allegations, the Probation Commission had reportedly been planning a hearing for victims to testify anonymously.

In another 2017 assault case, Oscar Calderon Jr. was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to inappropriately touching two girls at Camp Scudder, an all-female L.A. County detention center. 

Previous Investigations of Abuse in L.A. County Juvenile Facilities

Several official investigations have been conducted in response to numerous claims of physical and sexual abuse within the Los Angeles County juvenile hall system over the years. Prior inquiries include:

  • A two-year federal investigation ending in 2008, which found systemic abuse in the L.A. County juvenile system.
  • A 2018 U.S. Department of Justice survey which showed evidence of abuse in L.A. County facilities, including hundreds of boys and girls being raped or sexually assaulted, predominantly by male staff members.
  • A two-year California Department of Justice investigation which concluded that detention officers mistreated detainees by:
    • Unnecessarily using pepper spray
    • Locking minors in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time
    • Interfering with detainees receiving medical car
    • Preventing detainees from attending classes⁠

      ⁠⁠L.A. County settled with the California Attorney General’s Office in January 2021 to improve conditions at the facilities. 

What to Do If You’ve Been Assaulted

If you have been assaulted, you may experience psychological distress surrounding the abuse. Victims are often fearful of exposing the predator and terrified for their physical safety and their family’s well-being. Understandably, assault victims often don’t know where to turn for help.

If you are assaulted, follow these general guidelines to learn how you can get help, protect yourself and your loved ones, as well as seek compensation for your damages:

  • Keep a detailed log of the incident(s) including dates & times, to the best of your ability
  • Keep a timeline of significant events with supporting documentation
  • Digitally preserve potential evidence including documents, important communications, & any supporting evidence
  • Gather contact information discreetly from witnesses and other potential victims
  • Seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible to document your injuries
  • Document your expenses resulting from the incident(s), including therapy costs
  • Obtain repair estimates if your personal property was damaged in the assault
  • Don’t discuss details with insurance companies, media, or on social media
  • Contact a skilled assault attorney as soon as possible

CZ Law Fiercely Advocates on Behalf of Assault Victims

If you believe you are the victim of an assault, whether the abuse was a one-time incident or recurred over a period of time, you need the protection of a fiercely dedicated assault lawyer who can fight on your behalf.

The formidable personal injury attorneys at CZ Law are experienced in battling powerful entities and those determined to cover-up abuse in favor of quietly continuing the status quo.  Whatever the extent of your injuries and regardless of the power or position of the perpetrator, if you have suffered damages in an assault at the hands of an authority figure or anyone else, you deserve justice!

The law firm of Carpenter & Zuckerman was founded to promote advocacy for injury victims. For over twenty-five years, we have fought to give voice to the voiceless; and this remains our guiding mission. To date, our steadfast personal injury lawyers have secured more than $2 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. With offices in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Orange County, Bakersfield, San Diego, and Seattle, we are here to serve you. 

If you have been victimized in an assault, you may be eligible for compensation. You don’t have to suffer in silence; allow CZ Law to shoulder the burden and fight for you!⁠

Contact CZ Law’s accomplished assault lawyers today at (877) 870-2153, or fill out our form for a FREE consultation. 

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