Report: Jail staff blunders, but no cover-up

By Robin Fornoff

CMI PROJECTS EDITOR

rfornoff@cnjonline.com

A series of staff errors in July 2012 placed two blood enemies in the same pod of cells at Curry County jail resulting in the beating of Jaime Perez, but there was no attempt to cover up the blunders, according to a private investigator’s report.

The report was released Friday by Curry County Attorney Steve Doerr after a federal judge ordered it be given to fired jail Administrator Gerry Billy, who is suing the county for wrongful discharge.

Doerr denied a CNJ request last January for the same report, saying it was exempt from state public records inspection laws because it fell under attorney-client privilege.

The county offered the same argument in Billy’s civil lawsuit. However, U.S. District Judge Lourdes Martinez ordered the county on Oct. 23 to turn it over to Billy and his attorney Eric Dixon of Portales because the investigation and subsequent report weren’t compiled in anticipation of a lawsuit.

The report was finished in November 2012. Billy filed suit against the county shortly after being fired last January.

Dixon said Billy requested the investigation by Universal Investigation Services of Albuquerque to clear his name after Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he thought there may have been a cover-up in the beating of Perez by now-convicted murderer Louis Guerra.

Sandoval was referring to a controversy over a 100-page report compiled by jail Capt. Keith Farkas. Doerr initially declined to release the Farkas report to the CNJ saying Billy’s position was that it was prepared in anticipation of a lawsuit by Perez. Doer later released the report after another CNJ public records request turned up county emails disclosing the 100-page Farkas report was finished the day Perez’s attorney filed notice of a pending lawsuit.

The recently released Universal Investigation Services report concludes although there were many errors by jail staff resulting in discipline, there was “no indication that CCADC (Curry County Adult Detention Center) staff intentionally or maliciously put Jaime Perez in the same pod as Louis Guerra.

“There was no indication that CCADC tried to hide, delay or withhold information regarding the incident,” according to Universal’s Doug Shawn.

The report also discloses that four jail staff members were handed out disciplines ranging from a four-day unpaid suspension to reprimands.

Guerra was in the jail, accused of murdering Perez’s brother. Perez was also a state’s witness against Guerra in another case.

Jail staff placed Perez in the same pod of cells with Guerra despite numerous warnings from family and the district attorney’s office the two were to be kept separated because of the blood feud.

Shawn concluded the fight lasted five minutes and a detention officer monitoring surveillance cameras failed to see any of the attack. Guerra was caught on videotape beating Perez with the handle of a broom left in the pod in violation of jail policy.

Perez was treated at Plains Regional Medical center for injuries. His claim against the county is still pending, according to County Manager Lance Pyle.