By Vivian Ho 4/29/15
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is seeking to fire the deputy at the center of allegations that San Francisco jail inmates were forced to fight each other, The Chronicle has learned.
Deputy Scott Neu, who was previously accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting three inmates, was handed his termination papers Tuesday, said a source familiar with the case.
Neu has been on paid administrative leave since several inmates came forward in March, accusing him of forcing two of them to hit and bloody each other so he and other deputies could bet on the outcomes.
The inmates said Neu threatened to beat them and spray them with Mace if they did not comply, and would force them to gamble for their basic rights of food and clean laundry.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations, and the FBI recently launched a probe.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who made the fight allegations public, said the beginning of Neu’s termination process is “certainly justified.”
Neu’s attorney, Harry Stern, said, “I am acutely aware of the atmospherics that have led to this proposed action. Deputy Neu may have committed some policy violations by allowing two prisoners to tussle. However, the fabulous tales of a gladiator school, concocted by these inmates, are an utter exaggeration.”
The allegations of misconduct were not the first to be leveled against Neu in his career with the department. He has had six lawsuits and claims filed against him, records show. Two of the suits included accusations that Neu sexually assaulted three inmates, singling them out because of their race.
In 2005 and 2006, the inmates said in court documents, Neu groped them, made lewd comments and forced them to kiss him, show him their genitals and orally copulate him. They said he brought in cheeseburgers as bribes, and threatened to beat them or send them to another jail to keep them quiet. The suits were settled by the city for $97,000.
An inmate also accused Neu in 2012 of choking and kicking him out of retribution. The department cleared him of wrongdoing after an internal investigation, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Department declined to comment Wednesday on Neu’s job status, but scheduled a news conference for Thursday.
Having received his termination papers, Neu has a right to a disciplinary hearing at the department and to take his case to arbitration.
“Once we have had the opportunity to review the supporting evidence we will form our strategy for addressing the allegations,” Stern said.