Six Los Angeles County probation officers have been charged in connection with unlawfully using pepper spray against five teenage girls housed at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
Two separate cases were filed for warrant yesterday that allege the defendants, who work as detention services officers, either were unreasonable when using pepper spray or prevented the victims from being decontaminated after they were sprayed.
The six incidents occurred between April and July of 2018.
All six defendants made their initial court appearance today and are scheduled to return for arraignment on May 23 in Department 40 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
Deputy District Attorneys Kaveh Faturechi and Oscar Plascencia of the Justice System Integrity Division are prosecuting the cases.
The defendants in case BA476681 are:
* Marlene Rochelle Wilson (dob 11/26/72) charged with five felony counts of assault by a public officer and three misdemeanor counts of child abuse. She faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years and eight months in state prison to be served in local custody.
* Janeth Vilchez (dob 5/19/70) charged with one count each of assault by a public officer and child abuse. She faces a possible maximum sentence of four years in prison to be served in local custody.
The defendants in case BA476688 are:
* LaCour Harrison (dob 6/15/65) charged with one count of felony assault by a public officer and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to child by endangering her health. He faces up to four years in prison to be served in local custody.
* Claudette Reynolds (dob 1/9/62) charged with one count each of assault by a public officer and cruelty to a child by endangering her health. She faces up to 3 ½ years in prison to be served in local custody.
* Maria Asuzena Guerrero (dob 7/15/90) charged with one count of cruelty to a child by endangering her health.
* Karnesha Marshall (dob 2/11/91) charged with one count of cruelty to a child by endangering her health. Both Guerrero and Marshall face up to six months in jail.
The cases remain under investigation by the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
* * * * *
Separately, Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald issued the following statement Friday about the charges being filed:
“Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that criminal charges have been filed against six Los Angeles County Probation Officers as the result of a months-long investigation originated by L.A. County Probation into the unlawful use of force at one of the Department’s Juvenile Halls.
“As this filing shows, L.A. County Probation has a zero tolerance policy and will not tolerate the improper use of force by staff against any youth in our charge. When we become aware of an allegation of excessive use of force, we prioritize that investigation and refer the case to the D.A.’s office if warranted.
“The alleged acts by the individuals charged today in no way reflect on the amazing work done by our staff who have dedicated their careers to helping youth and adults change their lives for the better.
“What this filing does demonstrate is that the excessive or improper use of force by our staff will be thoroughly and professionally investigated, with involved staff being held accountable for their actions.”
* * * * *
Also separately, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a statement Friday afternoon about the charges:
“The filing of criminal charges against six Probation officers validates the earlier concerns we raised about excessive – and now potentially illegal – use of pepper spray in our juvenile halls and camps.
“It also underscores the urgent need to safely and responsibly phase out the use of pepper spray and to implement stronger oversight and other changes to be recommended by the Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT).
“I hope the Probation Department will continue to have a zero tolerance policy for staff misconduct.”