Man beaten in Harris County jail outraged

February 24, 2009 5:18:33 PM PST
A man handcuffed and beaten by a jail guard says he's outraged. A plea deal is keeping the officer who beat him out of jail. Here are the facts we know. Michael Lagatta was handcuffed in jail and got hit in the face. Tuesday morning, a detention officer admitted he did it. But he'll never serve a day in jail. That's the deal.

Video from inside the Harris County Jail on March 16, 2007, shows detention officer Timothy Gough. The handcuffed man behind him in the video him is Lagatta, arrested that night for misdemeanor trespassing. [WATCH VIDEO]

As they walked out of camera range, Gough could be heard saying, "...beat the (expletive) out of him."

There are no cameras where Gough, Lagatta and the other officers went. Lagatta says his eye socket and nose were broken by detention officers.

"While he was hitting me, I was handcuffed behind my back," he told us.

Gough was charged with aggravated assault. He could've gone to prison for life. But he's not.

"Tell me why you hit a handcuffed inmate?" we asked Gough as he was leaving the courtroom Tuesday.

Gough didn't answer.

"You did do that, right?" we continued. "That's what you pleaded to today."

Tuesday morning, Gough took a plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge, agreed to never work as an officer again and if he stays out of trouble for a year, he'll never go to jail.

"He admits he hit him in jail while he was handcuffed?" we asked assistant Harris County DA Wes Rucker.

"Right," he answered.

"But he won't go to jail for a day for it?" we asked.

"That was part of the plea bargain."

"Mr. Gough should be serving jail sentence for beating up an innocent man, a defenseless man," said Lagatta. "That's what should have happened."

But it didn't. The district attorney says there are problems with the case. Lagatta was mouthing off in the jail. Doctors said his bones weren't really broken. DA Pat Lykos says the deal serves the best interest of the county.

"What was important to us was to see that this man never ever worked again as a law enforcement officer," said Lykos. "That was our number one priority."

"I am not going to say this is a crime for which life in prison is appropriate, but certainly some jail time is appropriate," Lagatta's lawyer, David Kahne, said.

"If I walked into a facility or an establishment and I punched somebody or kicked somebody in the face, I would have to go to jail," said Lagatta.

Judges can reject plea deals, but Lagatta just found out about the deal Monday night and couldn't make it here from his home in Kansas City to tell the judge what he thought. In a strange way, the guilty plea may help him in his civil case against the county. It also may play a role in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into the jail.

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