Brett Phillips didn't realize the 2009 beating that left him in a pool of blood on the floor of L.A. County Men's Central Jail was the subject of the news story flashing across his TV screen Friday.
KPCC broke the news to Phillips when he was reached at the home he shares with his fiancée, Christine Chopurian. The alleged incident, which Phillips says landed him in the hospital for two weeks, has now produced federal charges against two Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles indicted Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez on allegations they punched and kicked Phillips, who was handcuffed and waist-chained at the time. They also allegedly used pepper-spray and hit him with a flashlight. They're also charged with attempting to fabricate a charge against Phillips of assaulting a deputy.
Phillips, Chopurian said, didn't tell her about the beating until he got out of jail almost a year after the February, 2009 incident.
"I think he was scared," she said.
Then, about a year ago, FBI agents visited their home to talk about the incident. Chopurian said they showed the couple a video, apparently taken moments after the incident.
"It was heart-wrenching," Chopurian said. "They didn't show him physically being beat up, but they showed him unconscious on a gurney."
Chopurian said the FBI showed her and Phillips where the video had been edited. "The FBI had pointed out they had cut the video," she said. "On one part of the video he had a patch on his head," and then in the next frame Chopurian said, "the patch was on the other side of the head."
"I was shocked to see myself like that," Phillips said.
Phillips said he's surprised these allegations are surfacing now.
"I'm confused, to be honest, because it's been so long," he said. But he still remembers the early part of what happened.
Phillips, who said he's been diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia, was an inmate at Men's Central Jail in early 2009 after he'd been brought there on a probation violation. He remembers one of the deputies who allegedly beat him.
"I threw three milk cartons at him and I didn't hit him," Phillips said. The deputy came into his cell and handcuffed and shackled him to move him elsewhere in the jail.
"They took me out front and they had me facing the wall," Phillips said. "That's when it all took place."
Watching the video of the aftermath with the FBI, Phillips said, "I was shocked to see myself like that."
Phillips said he ended up with stitches in his head, a fat lip, pain in his back, and was sore all over.
"I was pretty beat up," he said.
He didn't realize the Sheriff's Department had unsuccessfully tried to have him charged with assault on a deputy. He found out from the FBI.
A jail chaplain, Paulino Juarez, says he witnessed the incident and reported it to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and, later, the ACLU of Southern California. Four years later, the L.A. District Attorney's Office declined to file charges against the deputies. The case had been presented to them after the statute of limitations had already run out.
Chopurian said Phillips has had trouble sleeping ever since he got out of jail four years ago. She believes he might have a head injury, but they can't afford to see a doctor.
"I still have scars on my wrists, the restraints were so tight," Phillips said.
Phillips, now 42, said he's happy to see the case is being pursued, but mostly he just wants people to know he didn't deserve the beating.
"I've been in and out of jail," Phillips said. "[But] I'm not a bad person."