San Jose

Former Inmate Sues Santa Clara County Alleging Beating by Guards

The much maligned Santa Clara County jail system is the target of another lawsuit by a former inmate who says he was severely beaten by correctional officers.

The lawsuit is the latest legal action against Santa Clara County jail guards, a wave that started with the death inmate Michael Tyree last year at the Main Jail in San Jose. Three guards are being charged with murder in that case.

The latest allegation, by former inmate Julian Vasquez-Bernabe, has some familiar elements. He showed a scar on his forehead that he claims was the result of a beating by two guards at the Main Jail in September. He said he has emotional scars as well.

"The laceration on my forehead came from being kicked," Vasquez-Bernabe said. "My head hit the cement and it had split open. At the time, I was getting kicked so many times that I felt my face get warm, and I thought, 'Oh shoot, I'm bleeding.'"

Flanked by attorneys Robert Powell and Sarah Marinho, the former inmate filed the lawsuit against the county, several named correctional deputies and others for violation of his civil rights.

Vasquez-Bernabe says officers' excuse for punching and kicking him was that he gave them "attitude."

The former inmate's mother, Juanita Vasquez, says it took five days to find out what happened to her son - and it came from another inmate.

"We just wanted Julian's trial, for him to hurry and finish his time," Juanita Vazquez said. "I was scared he was going to die."

Vasquez-Bernabe was in jail for assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence convictions. His attorneys say they are hoping to get pictures of the injuries from an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation.

They point out the alleged beating took place within a month of Tyree's death and two months after an alleged attack on Ruben Garcia.

"This is deep," Powell said. "This kind of hiding grievance forms, no accountability has gone on for a long time. You don't break that culture overnight."

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office issued a statement saying it takes all claims seriously. Officials confirmed an investigation is underway but added since it is a personnel matter and a legal issue, they would decline further comment.

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