Kern County Sheriff’s comments from leaked video on cost of deadly force causes controversy

April 18, 2018 | 9:53 am


A video released recently showing Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood telling an employees union that it is better “financially” to kill suspects than to “cripple” them has sparked controversy locally and nationwide.

In the one-minute video filmed in 2006 during his first campaign for sheriff, Youngblood is seen seated at a table discussing deputy trainings and the cost to the sheriff’s office due to police violence.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark discussed Youngblood’s comments recently while on The Richard Beene Show on KERN Radio 1180, 96.1. You can listen to the full interview here.

The Bakersfield Californian described a portion of the video:

Youngblood, in response to a question about officer training, said that detention deputies are trained more extensively than they used to be because of the cost the county faces when deputies kill or injure a person.

“There’s a good reason for that: millions and millions of dollars,” Youngblood said. “You know what happens if a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody — kills them,” Youngblood said. “Three million bucks and the family goes away.”

It’s “a totally different ballgame” when it happens in a jail to an inmate who is in restraints and surrounded by multiple officers, Youngblood said.

“It’s no different than when a deputy shoots someone on the streets, which way do you think is better financially? To cripple them or kill them, for the county,” Youngblood asks.

“Kill them,” said a voice from the audience.

“Absolutely,” Youngblood replies. “Because if we cripple them we get to take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”

The comments from the video were related to a discussion about the 2005 in-custody beating death of James Moore, who was beaten by several Kern County detentions deputies. That wrongful death case, represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Moore’s family, resulted in a $6 million settlement. The killing also led to criminal charges against the deputies.

Lawyer Matt Clark said Youngblood’s comments speak to a culture within the sheriff’s department that life is not valued, and shared that families of victims of wrongful death at the hands of sheriff’s deputies — of which there have been several in recent years — are upset over the sheriff’s comments.

“Doesn’t that provide a mindset in that department that human life isn’t worth that much?” Clark said. “Having represented families who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and sometimes criminal conduct of the sheriff’s department, I can tell you (the families of victims) are not pleased to hear that.”

Specifically, Clark discussed several wrongful death, civil rights, and excessive force cases represented in recent years by Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were pushing the motorcycle to a relative’s house crossing Norris Road in Oildale when they were struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car, speeding with lights and sirens off. The wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car operated by Deputy Nicholas Clerico struck and killed her.
  • On July 14 2015, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road when a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.
  • On the night of May 7, 2013, David Sal Silva fell asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop. After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. And shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. A wrongful death lawsuit settlement was reached in May 2016 for $3.4 million.

In most of these cases, deputies suffered little consequences or punishment despite breaking department policies in the situations that led to these tragic deaths, Clark said.

This isn’t the first time the Kern County Sheriff’s Office has been the center of controversy for its practices and history of deadly force.

In December 2015, The Guardian publication unveiled its five-part series that examined the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct cases and other issues involving “America’s deadliest police” of Kern County. Then in 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California published a report following a two-year study that concluded law enforcement agencies in Kern County have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents. The California Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in Kern County’s departments.

———

If you or someone you know is the victim of excessive force, police misconduct, or other civil rights violations, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Attorney Neil Gehlawat named partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

December 23, 2015 | 8:11 am


* Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

Attorney Neil Gehlawat has been named a partner of the prominent Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, managing partner David Cohn announced.

Gehlawat joins David Cohn, Matthew Clark and James Yoro as partners of the law firm. At 27, he is the youngest partner of the firm, and perhaps one of the youngest partners of a law firm in all of Kern County.

“This is an incredible honor. I am extremely grateful and humbled by the opportunity given to me,” Gehlawat said. “I look forward to serving this community and continuing the fight for justice on behalf of people who have been injured or harmed by wrongdoers.”

Gehlawat joined Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2012 and focuses on personal injury, wrongful death, civil rights and employment cases. He grew up in Bakersfield, graduated from Stockdale High School, and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He obtained his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

The Bakersfield Californian‘s CEO Richard Beene mentioned the announcement in his popular newspaper column and blog, Bakersfield Observed. Beene wrote:

“Here’s a reason to applaud those children who go away to college but return to put down roots in our community. One of them is Neil Gehlawat, who has been named a partner in the plaintiffs law firm of Chain Cohn Stiles. Gehlawat is a Stockade High School graduate who attended UC Berkeley and the University of Texas School of Law. Not a bad accomplishment for this 27-year-old wunderkind.”

Gehlawat is currently involved in several high-profile civil cases including the David Silva’s wrongful death case, Jose Beltran’s wrongful death case, and representing the victims of sexual assaults in juvenile hall and in Tehachapi by Kern County Sheriff’s Department officers.

Outside of the office, Gehlawat is involved in several community groups and nonprofits. He serves on the planning committee for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County’s annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K.” He recently joined the board for the India Association of San Joaquin Valley, and is currently participating in Leadership Bakersfield. He was named one of Bakersfield Life Magazine’s 20 Under 40 People to Watch in 2015.

Related to his career, he is the membership chairman for the New Lawyers Division Board for the Consumer Attorneys of California, a member of the technology committee for Kern County Bar Association, and is also the founder of the Cal Alumni Chapter of Bakersfield.

For more on Gehlawat, watch a video about him by clicking here.

————

MEDIA COVERAGE

Local media highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles sexual assault cases in Kern County juvenile hall

April 1, 2015 | 10:11 am


Sexual violence is a serious problem in the United States that affects millions of women, and also men. In fact, 1 in 5 women in the United States (and 1 in 59 men) have been raped in their lifetime, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

But even these statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell law enforcement officials, family or friends about the sexual violence, which is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given.

It’s the goal of “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” observed each year in April, to call attention to sexual violence, and stop it before it begins.

The campaign is all too relevant at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where local media has been covering several cases involving sexual assault represented by the law firm. For the various media videos and articles related to these sexual assault cases, scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Chain | Cohn | Stiles In the News” section.

SEXUAL ASSAULTS AT JUVENILE HALL

On Friday, March 27, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat hosted a press conference following the filing of two claims against the County of Kern on behalf of two females who were sexually assaulted in separate incidents by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while the girls were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall.

Jane Doe 1 was housed at James G. Bowles Juvenile Hall from June 2014 through February 2015. While there, she enrolled in the Pathways Academy commitment program. Throughout September 2014, Kern County Corrections officer Cesar Holguin Navejar allegedly sexually assaulted her. When she reported the incident, supervisors initiated an administrative and criminal investigation. On Oct. 30, 2014, Navejar was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting Jane Doe 1. He is currently facing six felony charges including sexual battery, assault by a public officer and child molestation.

Jane Doe 2, who was also housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, was allegedly sexually assaulted by a different male Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer from September 2014 to January 2015.  That suspect has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.

The case of Jane Doe 2 was revealed after yet another juvenile at the facility complained to authorities that the same suspect Jane Doe 2’s case attempted sexual assault of the victim. And it’s possible there are more victims, Gehlawat said.

“If there are other victims, we want to encourage those victims to come out and tell us what happened,” Gehlawat said on the “First Look with Scott Cox” show. “It can help further bring accountability to these officers.”

The cases also bring about questions about employment issues at the juvenile hall, including whether men should be supervising female inmates. Also, the suspect in Jane Doe 2’s case reportedly has a criminal history.

Gehlawat says that the purpose of these civil cases is to deter this behavior and create a change in the juvenile hall system.

Also during an appearance on “First Look with Scott Cox,” attorney Neil Gehlawat discussed the case of a 21-year-old Tehachapi woman who was sexually assaulted by an on-duty Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. Deputy Gabriel Lopez has been charged in that case. You can read about that case by clicking here.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

———-

If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, take the following steps:

———-

CHAIN | COHN | STILES IN THE NEWS

Legal claims filed for girls allegedly sexually assaulted in Kern juvenile hall (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Two claims filed against Kern County in connection with alleged sexual assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney files claims against county, juvenile corrections officers (KGET / NBC)

Attorney: There may be more victims of guards accused of sexual assault at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian)

Attorney lays out sexual assault claims against juvenile hall officers (KBAK-KBFX / CBS-Fox)

Videos: ‘First Look’: More questions arise in alleged assaults at Juvenile Hall (The Bakersfield Californian, First Look with Scott Cox)

Neil Gehlawat hosts a press conference (Instagram)

Neil Gehlawat sits in with The Bakersfield Californian CEO Richard Beene on “First Look with Scott Cox” (Google+)

Girls claim juvie guards sexually assaulted them (Courthouse News Service)

CCS represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

October 6, 2014 | 9:07 am


On Sept. 28, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Below is the news release sent by CCS to local media, followed by the subsequent various news coverage:

———-

Chain | Cohn | Stiles represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

Bakersfield, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2014) – By all accounts, Nancy Joyce Garrett was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and most importantly, the pillar of her family. Nancy, 72, had been a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and had also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provide DUI awareness services.

Nancy passed away early Sunday morning when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Clerico collided with the vehicle she was driving at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Nancy leaves behind a son, Mark, and a daughter, Deborah, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ms. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to represent them in this case. Her family is still mourning and requests that their privacy be respected at this time.

Mark McGowan, her son, stated: “We are all devastated. My mother was the most loving woman that you could ever meet. To see her go like this, under such tragic circumstances, breaks our heart. We hope that with time the truth is revealed and that future tragedies like this never happen again. In the meantime, the family requests that the media and members of the public respect our privacy out of deference to my mother.”

The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is currently conducting an investigation of the collision.

Partner Matthew C. Clark added: “What we know at this time is that Nancy Joyce Garrett was a wonderful human being who had devoted her life to giving back to the community. Our hope and expectation is that the CHP will conduct a thorough investigation of this collision. We will not rush to any conclusions in the meantime, and we ask that the public do the same. But we promise to get to the bottom of what happened, and of course, as we learn more about the collision, we will share that information with the public.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represented the family of Daniel Ace Hiler, who was hit and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy John Swearengin more than two years ago. That case resulted in a combined $8.8 million settlement.


1430 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 100 – Bakersfield, CA – 93301 – Phone: 661-323-4000

CHAIN | COHN | STILES is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm, voted Bakersfield’s “Best Law Firm” in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll the last two years in a row. Our Bakersfield personal injury attorneys have represented clients from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and California for 80 years. We concentrate our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another. If you have been injured due to the fault of another, you have the right to hold that person or entity accountable, no matter how rich or powerful that person or entity may be. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we pride ourselves on having the reputation and resources necessary to overcome the most difficult challenges while achieving the best possible results for our clients.

For more information, go to chainlaw.com, and visit our blog to stay up to date on firm news: bloggingforjustice.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@chainlaw), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pintrest and Google+

———-

This crash has been covered extensively by Kern County media. Below are some of the news articles and videos of the crash, and the coverage following the news release.

Following the release to local media, several local media outlets informed the public of the news.

And lastly, CCS attorney Matthew Clark spoke with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Beene on the live streamed news show “First Look with Scott Cox” regarding the case. Catch the coverage here: