[b]Commentary: Celebrity or not, S.B. County deputies accused of mistreatment [/b] by Steve Corbett / Times Columnist Jan 17 2004 Nobody Dennis Ryan lives on a fixed income and rents a small place in Santa Maria. Celebrity Michael Jackson is a multi-millionaire who owns a sweeping Santa Ynez Valley ranch called Neverland. Still, the two men share common ground as unlikely allies in the same cause. Both men accuse Santa Barbara County deputies of brutalizing them during the time they spent in custody at the county jail. Jackson, 45, says deputies dislocated his shoulder and taunted him after he turned himself in to be booked on child molestation charges. Ryan, 55, says deputies withheld prescribed seizure medication after which he went into convulsions, fell from his cell bunk onto a concrete floor and suffered multiple rib fractures, a contusion on his right shoulder, severe swelling of both elbows, other soft tissue injuries, head injuries, long-term shock and memory loss. Like Jackson, Ryan also accuses deputies of taunting him. Unlike Jackson, though, prosecutors filed no charges against Ryan who police arrested on Jan. 19, 2003 for felony assault. Yet, both county residents stand united after taking their claims public, asking for redress to right wrongs they claim violated their civil rights. But don’t expect California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to launch a swift investigation into Ryan’s charges the way he responded to Jackson’s. Ryan might be a nobody but he’s also nobody’s fool. The streetwise Vietnam veteran and former amateur boxer was standing up for himself long before Jackson made his claims. That’s why the one-time investigator for the federal public defender’s office in Los Angeles who fell on hard times caused by depression and alcoholism filed a federal lawsuit after county supervisors ignored his initial request for settlement. “They didn’t even send a letter back,” said Ken Miller, the San Clemente attorney who agreed to represent Ryan after a nationally-known investigator and friend of Ryan’s contacted the lawyer. “We’re just waiting for the county to answer,” Miller said Tuesday. “Their answer is due, I believe, January 23.” Counsel for the county failed to respond to a detailed request for information about accusations in the lawsuit that include failure to render adequate medical care and deputies telling Ryan that he hadn’t been arrested but only “detained” for three days and 10 hours after being taken into custody. So what did Miller think when he heard Jackson’s allegations against the same gatekeepers he accuses of abusing his client? “My feelings were complex,” Miller said. “On one level I thought these people apparently have a lot of problems. They’re mistreating a lot of different people.” On another level, Miller saw symptoms of problems that plague prisons nationwide. “Most Americans would just have their minds blown at the way people are treated in our prisons in our counties,” Miller said. “And I think the only way people go to sleep at night is (under) the assumption that that won’t happen to me because I’m not going to end up there. “And it never even hits home to people until somebody that they know actually is incarcerated or they, themselves, are incarcerated…When it happens to somebody like Jackson, it brings it into the forefront and to that extent it serves a really good pedagogical purpose about how we treat our lowest rungs of society.” Like any seasoned criminal defense lawyer, Miller is a deep thinker. “When I see something like that happen to Jackson, I feel like maybe it’s going to open a window on the prison world.” Still, because “Jackson is so different from the average person,” Miller believes the effect will be limited. That’s why Ryan’s claims are so significant. Unless his investigator buddy and his lawyer believed in him, this former hell-raiser would likely never have had a shot at making his case. Now back in the gym and vowing to stay off the booze for good, the rough-and-tumble raconteur says he’s in training for the rest of his life. Whatever happens in court, superstar Jackson’s got everything to lose. Average guy Ryan’s got everything to gain. Steve Corbett’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 739-2215 or e-mailed at scorbett@pulitzer.net. Read Corbett online at www.santamariatimes.com. :nav Source: [url=http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2004/01/17/sections/traffic/960.txt]http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/20…traffic/960.txt[/url]

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