Man suing after jailer allegedly beat him

October 28, 2008 9:41:05 PM PDT
A Houston visitor is suing Harris County. He alleges he was beaten up by a jailer and that Harris County should've known the jailer was breaking the rules. Michael LaGatta -- who lives in Kansas City -- was in Houston last March to see his dying grandfather.

"Just to give our last respects and say goodbye before he passed on," he said.

Afterwards LaGatta and his then-girlfriend, now wife, ended up a country bar. They somehow got arrested for trespassing and he was put in the Harris County jail. Minutes later LaGatta says, and court documents allege, LaGatta was beaten up by a jailer while handcuffed and unable to defend himself.

" I winded up fracturing my orbital socket right here," he explained. "My nose was actually lacerated and broken right here. Behind both my ears was purple. Behind my back there was a laceration and bruising as well."

After the beating, LaGatta was put back in a cell without a trip to the infirmary to see a doctor. The detention officer went back to work. In fact, court documents say that officer -- Timothy Gough -- can be heard on jail videotape saying "... He beat the (blank) out of him."

LaGatta's lawyer David Kahne said, "Somebody should've taken that deputy and gotten him out of the situation and taken him away from Michael."

This case continues at the criminal courthouse. Not for Michael LaGatta, but for the deputy himself who was arrested after an internal affairs investigation and charged with aggravated assault.

But detention officer Gough likely shouldn't have been there in the first place that night. Three weeks earlier, court documents reveal he kicked an inmate in the head and body also inside the jail. Like LaGatta's assault, it likely wasn't reported by other deputies. To LaGatta's lawyer - who sued Harris County on Monday - that is one of the worst parts of this case.

"There's multiple people involved in the beating and Harris County should make sure that once people have actually beaten someone up, they aren't left on the floor to beat someone else up," Kahne said.

Citing the prosecution, the sheriff's office wouldn't talk to Eyewitness News about the case, and calls to the jailer's lawyer weren't returned. Timothy Gough is due in court Wednesday morning.

This is not the first instance of alleged abuse inside the Harris county jail. The justice department is looking into conditions there. There is no timeline for the report to be finished, but it's not expected to be released before next Tuesday -- Election Day.

      Headline check | 100 most recent local stories | News alerts
            Slideshow archive | ABC13 wireless | Help solve crimes


Load Comments