LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A supervising deputy probation officer accused of ordering an attack by other officers on a teenage boy at a juvenile hall in Sylmar pleaded not guilty to a felony assault charge.
Sergio Cano, 45, is charged with one count of assault under the color of authority involving the alleged attack last April 25, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil agreed on Wednesday, March 15, to allow Cano to remain free on his own recognizance while awaiting his next court appearance April 11, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
Cano is accused of ordering the assault on the teen, who suffered moderate injuries, although he was not physically involved in the altercation, according to Greg Risling of the District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors have not disclosed whether any other Probation Department employees have been charged.
In a statement released shortly after Cano’s court appearance, County Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald said, “The L.A. County Probation Department is fully cooperating in the investigation of allegations filed against probation officers accused of using excessive force against a juvenile detainee at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.”
McDonald mentioned three employees, noting that one surrendered today to authorities and that the other two were “ordered to appear in court as well.”
“Of the three employees, two are no longer employed by the department, and the third is on leave,” McDonald said. “Since this incident came to light, the Probation Department also has initiated a sweeping internal investigation that has turned up seven other force incidents at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in which employees appear to have acted outside of policy by using unauthorized or excessive force, being misleading/untruthful, or both.
The department is pursuing administrative action against employees involved in these incidents.”
Deputy District Attorney Ann Marie Wise told the judge that the alleged assault of the teen — in which Cano is charged — was caught on video.
“He’s present for the entire thing,” the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Winston Kevin McKesson told the judge that his client has been a probation officer for 15 years and has been placed on administrative leave.
Outside court, McKesson said, “I don’t understand the filing. I think there’s insufficient evidence to show that my client did anything wrong … We hope they do the right thing and dismiss this case against my client.”
If convicted of the charge, Cano could face up to three years in state prison, according to prosecutors.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey commended the Los Angeles County Probation Department for referring the matter to her office and cooperating with the investigation.
“The Probation Department’s current leadership has demonstrated a commitment to reform and accountability,” Lacey said.
The case is the second filed in recent months against a Los Angeles County deputy probation officer.
Oscar David Calderon Jr., 33, pleaded not guilty Jan. 26 in connection with allegations that he fondled four teenage girls at a juvenile camp in Santa Clarita. He is charged with two counts of committing a lewd act on a child and four counts of assault by a public officer.