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279 file lawsuit that says abuse occurred at LA County juvenile halls, camps

Nearly 300 boys and girls allege in a new lawsuit they were sexually assaulted, harassed and abused by Los Angeles County probation and detention officers while being held in county juvenile facilities.

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Dec. 20, says minor detainees at county juvenile camps and detention centers were abused during their detainment. Lawyers for the 279 plaintiffs contend the county failed hundreds of minors through negligence, including a lack of adequate hiring policies to screen for potential sexual predators within its facilities, and failure to provide appropriate training and supervision of staff and employees.

The allegations include grooming, unsupervised inmate access that led to verbal and physical abuse, and inadequate training of employees on proper standards. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Los Angeles County failed to provide juvenile detainees with necessary supervision to keep them safe.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that the pandemic multiple-decade-long abuses of these minor victims within the exclusive control of Los Angeles County’s juvenile detention system were allowed to run its course for as long as they did with no consequences or recourse,” Doug Rochen, a partner at ACTS Law, which filed the lawsuit, said in a statement.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn Times the accusations are “stomach-turning. … 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.”

A then-13-year-old girl alleges that she was sexually abused and harassed by a group of deputy probation officers while she was alone brushing her teeth one night. They promised “extra food and extra privileges” if she willingly allowed them to touch her, and when she failed to comply she was restrained, then brutally and painfully raped, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that a then-17-year-old boy on more than 10 separate occasions was sexually abused and harassed by a deputy probation officer. The officer would enter his cell at night, bring him alcohol to get him drunk and sodomize him, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed during a window created by a 2020 state law that opened a three-year period for individuals to sue over sexual abuse claims from decades ago, and effectively paused California’s statutes of limitations and provided an opportunity to file suits for civil damages. After 2022, suits can be filed only if the alleged incidents are less than 40 years old, or if it has been five years since the plaintiffs encountered psychological effects from alleged past sexual abuse.

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