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Deputies’ records sought in beating death of O.C. jail inmate

Deputies’ records sought in beating death of O.C. jail inmate – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)

John Chamberlain



The day after the family of an inmate beaten to death in Orange County Jail received a $600,000 settlement, an attorney for one of the men accused in the killing said he is seeking the personnel files of the deputies on duty at the time.

John Chamberlain, a 41-year-old computer technician from Mission Viejo, was awaiting trial on charges that he possessed child pornography. Instead, he was killed by other inmates in 2006 in the first slaying in an Orange County jail in two decades.

Joe Heneghan, a lawyer for Jared Petrovich — one of seven defendants charged in the killing — said he needs the personnel files to see whether they show any previous incidents involving excessive force or lying during the deputies’ law enforcement careers.

Heneghan said the files may determine the type of defense he plans for his client.


“At least I want to explore that area,” he said.

A hearing in the case involving Petrovich was scheduled for Friday but has been postponed to Feb. 29.

Chamberlain died Oct. 5, 2006, at Theo Lacy Jail. Hours before he was killed, his public defender called jail officials to warn them that his client felt his life was in danger and to urge them to place him in protective custody. He was not moved.

Chamberlain’s father, George, who lives in Arizona, filed a $60-million lawsuit that accuses three deputies — Kevin Taylor, Jason Chapluk and Phillip Le — of having Chamberlain beaten because they thought he was a molester.

The suit alleges that at least one of the deputies met with an inmate and passed on that erroneous information, promising that inmates who took care of Chamberlain would be allowed to watch a Dodgers-Mets baseball playoff game and be rewarded with other privileges.

Heneghan said he is interested in the personnel files for only Taylor and Chapluk.

Sheriff’s officials have denied allegations that deputies revealed information about Chamberlain before he was killed. A sheriff’s spokesman on Friday said he could not discuss the allegations, citing an ongoing grand jury probe.

According to the lawsuit, Chamberlain was walked to Cubicle D, an area of the barracks where inmates are routinely “taxed,” or beaten, for breaching prisoner protocol. About 20 inmates swarmed, punching, kicking and jumping on him, the lawsuit says.

Chamberlain “screamed out” for 20 to 30 minutes, trying to get deputies to “stop his beating and to save his life,” but they ignored his pleas and remained in the guard station, the lawsuit alleges.

Inmates had time to wash their jumpsuits to get rid of blood and other evidence before the guards learned of the attack, according to a Sheriff’s Department official who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity.

Jerry Steering, a lawyer for George Chamberlain, said he was willing to settle for a lesser amount to avoid lengthy litigation.

“He’s 81 years old. He doesn’t want to spend the last years of his life litigating something in court,” Steering said. “He wasn’t in this for the money. He was in it to make a point and hopefully save someone else’s life.”