This week, Kate Briquelet of The Daily Beast reported that three San Francisco County Jail inmates had been awarded $90,000 after a settlement was reached in a federal lawsuit that alleged they had been forced to fight for the entertainment of their jailers.
Ricardo Palakiko-Garcia and Stanley Harris received $35,000 each from the settlement. Keith Dwayne Richardson received $20,000. Though the lawsuit is settled, the accused sheriff’s deputies still face criminal charges for their alleged operation of what has been referred to as a ‘fight club.’
Scott R. Neu, who was fired from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in 2015 when these allegations became public, was the alleged ring-leader. According to prosecutors it was Neu who selected, intimidated, and forced Palakiko-Garcia and Harris to fight each other on two occasions.
In court papers Neu is accused of constantly harassing Harris and forcing him to exercise, while degrading the inmate with names like “fat boy.” Neu would allegedly stand over Harris as he did push-ups and call him his “fighter” and say that the harsh regime was “training.”
Palakiko-Garcia, who was booked in January, 2015, worked in the kitchen. Court papers described how he too was allegedly suspect to special attention from Neu. According to the 150lb Palakiko-Garcia, Neu referred to him as “little guy” and would constantly force him to gamble, using a deck of cards Neu carried with him. The games of “high-low” usually meant Palakiko-Garcia would lose some kind of possession, regardless if he won or lost the game.
The inmates’ lawsuit states that in March, 2015 Neu approached Palikiko-Garcia and asked him, “You want to see my champion?” Palikiko-Garcia claimed he agreed and followed Neu, out of fear. Neu led the inmate to part of the jail’s seventh floor that was shielded from both security cameras and passers-by.
There, allegedly, Neu introduced Palikiko-Garcia to Harris and both men were told they had to fight. Palikiko-Garcia and Harris’ lawsuit accused Neu of instructing them to avoid striking each other’s faces, to not seek medical attention after the fight, and to say they fell out of bed if anyone asked any questions.
In court papers Palikiko-Garcia claimed he tried to talk his way out of the situation and stated that he had no problems with Harris and that he just wanted to get back to work. It is alleged that then Neu threatened to “cuff and f**k up” Palikiko-Garcia, as well as take away his kitchen job.
Palikiko-Garcia and Harris claimed they engaged in approximately three minutes of combat, while Neu egged them on. Allegedly, also present was Deputy Clifford Chiba, who also encouraged Palikiko-Garcia and Harris to fight. Chiba, like Neu, is facing criminal charges.
Palikiko-Garcia and Harris alleged that during their fight they both fell to the ground. It is claimed that there the much larger Harris grew exhausted and Palikiko-Garcia seized upon him with a headlock that forced Harris to call it quits.
Neu’s alleged response to Harris, after he has lost the forced contest was, “M**********r, I don’t like losing money.” Neu is also accused of telling the men there would be a rematch in a week.
Deputy Chiba is accused of escorting the inmates back to their cells after the fight. Court papers stated that during this he coached Harris on how to escape Palikiko-Garcia’s headlock.
According to Harris life got even worse after this first fight. In his lawsuit the inmate described a new ‘training’ regime, courtesy of then-Deputy Neu. Allegedly Harris was forced to do exercises each morning at 7am, this - he claimed - included having to perform 200 push-ups while Neu barked over top of him, calling him his “prizefighter” and demanding he beat Palikiko-Garcia in their rematch.
Elsewhere in the jail Deputy Eugene Jones was allegedly pestering Palikiko-Garcia to fight Harris again, saying he “missed” the original fight. Jones too is the subject of criminal charges. Palikiko-Garcia alleged that Jones told him he was “counting” on him to beat Harris again. The inmate claimed he told Jones over and over that he didn’t want to fight.
According to the lawsuit Jones and Neu later confronted Palikiko-Garcia in the kitchen, where Neu allegedly screamed, “Fight or I’ll f**k you up!” It is claimed that after this Palikiko-Garcia was escorted back up to the seventh floor, where Harris was waiting. Along with Neu and Jones, Deputy Evan Staehely was allegedly present, though Staehely has not received any criminal charges.
Court papers stated that the inmates were given the same ‘rules’ as they were for their first fight. They also stated that Harris and Palakiko-Garcia fought again - intensely - and that Harris landed a punch to Palakiko-Garcia’s scrotum. Palakiko-Garcia claimed he collapsed in pain and then requested a time-out, which was denied by the jailers. The fight allegedly continued until two other deputies were drawn to the commotion, which prompted Neu to stop the fight.
Palikiko-Garcia claimed he was badly injured after the fight and that Neu continued to threaten and harass him in the days and weeks that followed, asking him once, “ever been handcuffed, maced, and had your ass beat?”
Harris claimed Neu continued to harass him also and repeatedly threatened to “take his cheeks” (slang for forced anal intercourse). According to The Daily Beast Neu was previously named in sexual assault lawsuits by inmates who received settlements in 2009. According to the San Francisco Chronicle Neu never faced criminal charges for these alleged incidents.
Harris also alleged that Neu identified himself as a member of a gang called “850 Mob”.
Keith Dwayne Richardson, who received $20,000 in the settlement, allegedly refused to take part in fights which Neu tried to set-up. Richardson also claimed that Neu forced him to gamble for food, clothes, TV, and work privileges. Richardson stated that he overheard deputies discussing their bets on the fights between Harris and Palakiko-Garcia.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle Neu now faces 17 criminal counts, including felony charges of assault under color of authority. If found guilty he could be sentenced for 10 years in state prison. Jones was also charged with two felony counts of assault under color of authority and other misdemeanors, he could receive five years in prison. Chiba faces two misdemeanor counts of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment and one misdemeanor count of breaking his official duties. All three men are free on bail. Jones is currently on unpaid administrative leave, Chiba remains on active duty - in a position which includes no contact with inmates.
Scott R. Neu, Eugene Jones, and Clifford Chiba are considered innocent of all charges until proven guilty.