LOS ANGELES—A former police officer with the Desert Hot Springs Police Department was sentencing this afternoon to four years in federal prison for violating the civil rights of two suspects in police custody.
Anthony Sclafani, 42, of Beaumont, received the 48-month sentence from United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. In addition to the four-year prison term, which Sclafani was ordered to begin serving by September 24, Judge Hatter ordered the defendant to perform 500 hours of community service after Sclafani completes his prison sentence.
A federal jury convicted Sclafani in February of two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law.
Sclafani, “a police sergeant and watch commander at the Desert Hot Springs Police Department, abused his authority when he willfully used excessive force by pepper spraying and shocking with a Taser gun two arrestees on two consecutive days without any lawful justification,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Sclafani used an X26 Taser gun to stun suspects in two incidents in February 2005. In one incident, the suspect was handcuffed when Sclafani used pepper spray and the Taser on the suspect.
“I don’t believe I should have to live in fear of police brutality, no matter what my background or where I come from,” the victim said in court today.
In the second incident, a female suspect—whom prosecutors argued was too drunk even to stand on her own—was in a locked cell when Sclafani opened the door to spray her in the face with pepper spray and to use the Taser on her.
Sclafani “intimidated, abused, and repeatedly assaulted two helpless victims who were in his custody at the jail in two separate incidents without any lawful justification,” prosecutors wrote in court papers. “To cover up his illegal conduct, he then concocted lies that the victims were combative and physically resistant to justify his use of force.”
The case against Sclafani is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.