Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Former Desert Hot Springs Police Officer Gets Four Years in Prison for Abusing Suspects
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A former Desert Hot Springs police officer was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for abusing suspects with pepper spray and a stun gun, including an attack on a woman who was too drunk to stand by herself, according to federal prosecutors.
A federal jury convicted Anthony Sclafani, 42, in February of two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Carter.
The sergeant and watch commander was convicted of using a Taser to stun suspects in two February 2005 incidents, after both had already been pepper-sprayed and subdued, said Carter, who argued the case with lead counsel Steven Arkow.
“We just want to emphasize that we are very glad that there was a significant custodial sentence imposed in this case,” Carter said. “The officer was a veteran sergeant, not a young officer.”
A call to Sclafani’s attorney yesterday afternoon was not immediately returned. During trial, prosecutors relied on victim testimony, firing data downloaded from the stun guns and the testimony of Dennis Decker, a Deserts Hot Springs officer who worked at the station and is in prison on an unrelated misconduct charge, Carter said.
In the first incident, Sclafani used a Taser on a handcuffed male suspect while he was sitting on a bench, shocking him for three seconds.
“The defendant told him ‘Get up or I’ll tase you again,’” Carter said. “He couldn’t get up because he was handcuffed, and then the defendant fired the Taser at him again for the full five-second cycle.”
Taser guns typically fire for five seconds but can be manually set for different lengths of time, Carter said.
In the second incident, Sclafani pepper-sprayed a heavily intoxicated woman and put her back into a locked cell with no decontaminant for her eyes, Carter said.
Though the woman was too intoxicated to stand on her own, Sclafani later claimed that she needed to be subdued, so he used the stun gun on her three times in 40 seconds, for five seconds each time.
“I don’t believe I should have to live in fear of police brutality, no matter what my background or where I come from,” the victim said in court yesterday.
Sclafani “intimidated, abused and repeatedly assaulted two helpless victims who were in his custody at the jail in two separate incidents without any lawful justification,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company