A second look
Watchdog group looks into incident first reported in the Weekly
By André Coleman 11/15/2012
Acting on a story that first appeared in the Pasadena Weekly in August, a law enforcement watchdog group has asked for information on an incident in which a Pasadena businesswoman had her nose broken by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on a Gold Line passenger platform.
Carla Sameth, who was roughed up by deputies on Dec. 28, 2009, said she was contacted last week by Diana Tiran of the Office of Independent Review, a county agency which investigates the Sheriff’s Department and other police agencies on use-of-force, officer-involved shootings and other issues.
In late June, Sameth, a Pasadena businesswoman and single mother of two teenagers, ended her federal civil rights lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff’s Department for an out-of-court settlement of $199,000. Sameth’s harrowing first-person account of her ordeal, titled “One day on the Gold Line,” ran in the Aug. 30 issue of the Weekly and can be read online at pasadenaweekly.com.
Tiran did not return seeking comment for this story.
John Burton, Sameth’s attorney, said he sent Tiran the legal documents she was seeking in relation to the incident.
“The OIR contacted me after they saw [the article in the Weekly],” Burton said. “I gave them an earful and then sent them a bunch of stuff. One of the problems is there is a statute of limitations of one year on opening an internal investigation. So we’ll see.”
In the incident, Sameth was asked for her ticket by Deputy David Ybarra. She had a receipt for a $5 day pass but was unable to find her ticket, which was in her purse. Ybarra escorted Sameth to the passenger landing in Highland Park, where they were met by Deputies Veronica Baeza and Ronald Anderson. Without explaining why, Baeza instructed Sameth to turn around, and she complied. But when Sameth turn back to complain that Baeza was hurting her during the search, Baeza grabbed the back of Sameth’s head and slammed her face into the steel pole supporting the landing’s canopy, breaking Sameth’s nose, chipping her tooth and causing other injuries to her head and neck.
Sameth ultimately was not charged with either fare evasion or resisting arrest in relation to the incident. However, Sheriff’s Department investigators determined that the deputies involved had acted “within policy” in detaining and searching Sameth.
In a use-of-force report prepared three weeks after the incident, Ybarra, Baeza and Anderson were exonerated for their roles in the search and subsequent injuries inflicted by Baeza.
“The deputy was acting within the scope of the law and department guidelines while conducting the search,” the sheriff’s report concludes.
The sheriff’s Risk Management Bureau concurred.
“The investigation concluded that the actions taken by the three deputies were reasonable, justified and in compliance with department policy,” according to a report prepared by that agency.