ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Adams County has paid $20,000 to a lifelong criminal, Mario Ybarra, over a videotaped incident of alleged excessive force in the Adams County Jail, and now Ybarra’s own lawyer says taxpayers got soaked.
“Don’t we have better things to do with $20,000 than give it to Mario Ybarra and me? I think the answer to that is yes, especially when schools are being closed and programs are being cut back,” said David Lane, Ybarra’s attorney.
The payment stems from an incident in the Adams County Jail on Jan. 22, 2011. Ybarra, who has a 14-page criminal record, was being booked into the jail on a shoplifting charge. A camera in the jail recorded deputies attempting to fingerprint Ybarra. But their fingerprint machine was not working properly and the 45-year-old Ybarra was verbally abusing the deputies.
“So Mr. Ybarra was commenting about the poor quality of the print machine and the lack of knowledge of the deputy in operating the poor quality print machine,” Lane said.
The videotape obtained by CBS4 shows Ybarra standing at the fingerprint machine. He does not appear to move. But suddenly a deputy tackles Ybarra and several other deputies join in, attempting to subdue and handcuff the prisoner.
“I think his comments clearly agitated the deputy involved as evidenced by the deputies’ response to Mr. Ybarra’s comments. The deputy lost his temper with Mr. Ybarra, immediately attacked him, took him down … wrestled around with him and thumped him a few times then hauled him off to a cell.”
But 3 months later the deputies all wrote statements about what happened after being allowed to review the videotape of what happened. The statements appear to be at odds with what is seen on the videotape.
“Mario Ybarra then stepped away from the machine and appeared to be exiting the fingerprint/mug shot area,” wrote Dep. Michael Soto.
Another deputy, Jimmy Marshall, wrote in his account that “… Mr. Ybarra turned and walked away,” prompting the takedown by Marshall and Soto.
However the videotape does not seem to show Ybarra walking away, trying to leave the area, or even moving before he is taken down.
“The videotape absolutely shows they lied in their reports,” Lane said. “He did not flinch, he did not move a muscle. That deputy attacked him while he was standing motionless. The videotape shows that.
“What’s shocking to me is nobody in Adams County is doing a thing about it except for writing a check to me and my office and Mario Ybarra. There is no discipline imposed on these deputies for lying in official police reports about the incident and filing officially certified police reports which are demonstrably false.”
On Jan. 23 CBS4 asked the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the apparent discrepancies between the videotape and the deputies’ reports.
“The sheriff’s office was not sued, nor served with any allegations,” responded Sgt. Terrance O’Neill, a sheriff’s department spokesperson. “The out-of-court settlement was a business decision based upon potential legal expenses.”
O’Neill said Sheriff Doug Darr would not discuss the case with CBS4 and the department refused to answer any questions or agree to an on camera interview.
Assistant County Attorney Heidi Miller wrote in an email, “The settlement did not represent any judgment about the actions of the deputy. It was strictly a business decision. The case would have been filed in federal court and would have alleged civil rights violations. If we lost at trial we would have to pay attorney’s fees … at least $100,000.”
Lane says Adams County taxpayers should be outraged by the settlement.
“The people of Adams County deserve better than this. The sheriff should be held accountable for this. The cops that filed false reports to cover up the assault on Ybarra should not only be fired, they should be prosecuted. It’s a crime. It’s easier to write a check with taxpayer money for $20,000 than it is to discipline deputies in Adams County,” Lane said.
The sheriff’s department refused to answer any questions about whether or not anyone was disciplined over the Ybarra incident or why the deputies’ written reports are dated 3 months after the incident took place.
Below is the unedited videotape of the Ybarra incident:
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com