INMATES PLEAD NOT GUILTY IN RACIAL ATTACK AT PITCHESS.
SAN FERNANDO - Six Latino inmates pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of attempted murder and mayhem following an attack last week on an African-American inmate at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
Ahmad Burwell, the 21-year-old inmate whose head was bashed into a concrete floor during one of three days of rioting at the jail, suffered critical injuries and remained hospitalized.
The six inmates were ordered to return May 19 to North Valley Court in San Fernando for a preliminary hearing to determine whether they will be tried on charges of attempted murder and aggravated mayhem. They could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges, prosecutors said.
One of the six, 19-year-old Carlos Roberto Robledo, is also charged with using a shank.
The other inmates were identified as Ramon Brizuela, 26; Johnny Contreras, 30; Jesus Alberto Fonseca, 23; Antonio Cruz, 18; and Jose Juan Campos, 24.
The criminal complaint alleges that Robledo, Brizuela, Contreras and Fonseca have prior felony convictions.
Brizuela is serving time for a domestic violence conviction, and Cruz, Campos and Robledo have been awaiting trial in separate murder cases, prosecutors said.
Contreras is awaiting trial in a drug possession case, and Fonseca is awaiting trial in a robbery case.
Burwell was one of five African-American inmates housed in a 60-person dormitory where most of the inmates were Latino.
The charges were filed a day after former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden reported that outnumbered African-American inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center contend guards allowed the race rioting to occur.
``These black inmates have complained that the Sheriff's Department was aware that a riot was about to take place,'' Darden said.
The author, sometimes actor, law school professor and former prosecutor said the Sheriff's Department was also aware that ``Hispanic inmates are armed with shanks and knives and cutting instruments,'' and that ``these Latino inmates are determined to maim and kill black inmates at any cost.''
But sheriff's Deputy Rick Martinez said Tuesday, ``If we had prior knowledge of an event taking place, we would definitely prevent it from happening.''
Leaders of the National Alliance for Positive Action have said they intend to file a lawsuit on behalf of African-American inmates injured in the rioting, alleging that the Sheriff's Department violated their civil rights.