July 22, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

County settles Malibu Detention Brawl lawsuit for $1.2 million

The Board of Supervisors today approved a $1.2 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging Los Angeles County personnel at a youth detention camp in Malibu ignored signs of racial unrest before an outbreak of fighting that left a detainee with brain injuries.

Nathaniel Marshall, 24, will need lifelong care as a result of the injuries he suffered as an 18-year-old in the 2008 brawl involving Latinos and blacks at Camp Miller, his lawyer, Michael Goldstein, told a jury last summer.

A judge declared a mistrial in Marshall’s suit June 9 after jurors declared themselves hopelessly deadlocked after about two days of deliberations.

Citing “the risks and uncertainties of litigation,” county attorneys recommended a settlement. More than $730,000 has already been spent by the county on legal fees and expenses.

Marshall, who is black, sued the county in February 2010, saying he was pulled from his bunk at the camp and beaten on Nov. 1, 2008, in what his lawsuit characterized as a “race riot.”

About 30 to 40 kids were involved in the fight in a dorm at the camp, according to board documents.

“This was a systematic breakdown that amounted to deliberate indifference,” Goldstein said last summer. “These kids at that camp were entitled to be protected.”

A summary prepared by the Probation Department claimed that staffers were able to quickly control the situation.

“Staff worked to contain the situation quickly and effectively and the fight was stopped within seconds by giving verbal commands and making use of safe crisis management techniques,” according to the report.

Once probation officers realized Marshall was injured, they sent him to a nurse on site and then airlifted him to UCLA Medical Center.

Marshall suffered strokes as a result of the attack and now has an assortment of health issues, including epilepsy, according to Goldstein.

Attorney Tomas Guterres, representing the county, told jurors that fights in detention camps cannot be eliminated. “It’s the nature of the population,” he said.

Goldstein said staffers and his client warned camp personnel that a race riot was about to break out, but no action was taken to prevent it. The complaint alleged the county failed to properly train and supervise the staff to make sure they reacted properly to the warnings.

In the wake of the brawl, the Probation Department cut the number of juvenile offenders housed at Camp Miller to create a better staffing ratio and also updated and expanded safety and security procedures, according to a “corrective action plan” submitted to the board for approval.

The department’s report also noted that staff and key witnesses weren’t adequately prepared for court. A training program on “court readiness” for supervisors and executive staff will be developed in coordination with county attorneys, according to the report.

According to Goldstein, many of the probation officers at the camp blamed the outbreak of violence on a failure to properly discipline youths for fighting by sending them to court for violating their probation.

The dorm brawl occurred less than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the county’s 19 juvenile camps violated detainees’ constitutional protections. The DOJ mandated a host of changes, including staffing to “keep residents reasonably safe from harm” and developing strategies to reduce youth-on-youth violence.

in Crime, News
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