In the Hole

Santa Ana inmate who asked to go to juvenile hall sent to isolation

Eddie Quiñones' bizarre journey through Orange County's juvenile-justice system already reads like something out of a Kafka novel. And it's getting worse.

A few weeks ago, the Santa Ana jail inmate missed a crucial hearing that might have gotten him out of jail three months ahead of schedule. Instead, Quiñones spent Nov. 7, the day of the hearing, in his cell. There's still no explanation for how that happened, leaving open the possibility that jail officials or tough-on-crime prosecutors feared that Juvenile Court Commissioner James Odriozola might grant early release to Quiñones, an ex-gang member serving six months for carrying a pocketknife. (See "Where Is Edward Quiñones?" Nov. 17).

Contacted by the Weekly, the Orange County public defender's office could not explain why Quiñones wasn't transported to his hearing. "We're in the process of getting him back on the calendar and have him present in court for possible early release," said Anthony Mesa, a supervisor with the public defender's office.

Quiñones' weird time in jail has been well-documented by the Weekly—perhaps more thoroughly than he would like. Just hours after the appearance of an article detailing his nonappearance in court—at 2 a.m. on Nov. 17—Quiñones' life took another strange turn. That's when a female corrections officer woke him up by shining a flashlight in his face. The officer told Quiñones to pack up his clothes for the trip upstairs to the Santa Ana jail's isolation ward—what inmates call "the hole."

According to Quiñones, the female officer had opened his cell with a remote device and was standing at least 20 feet away from him. As he acknowledged in a Nov. 21 jailhouse interview with the Weekly, he got angry and cursed the officer, calling her a "fucking bitch" and a "puta [whore] . . . I got mad because she holds a grudge against me, even though I have always used my manners around her," he said. "That's when I hit the wall with my open palm."

The officer called for backup. Within seconds of Quiñones' angry outburst, six corrections officers were inside his cell. When one of them held a canister of pepper spray in his face and ordered him to lie down, he did so. According to Quiñones, the officers nonetheless proceeded to beat and kick him, even stepping on his back after he had been handcuffed.

When officers lifted him from the ground, they did so by pulling on his arms, which were handcuffed behind his back. Quiñones claims an operation last year left his shoulders particularly sensitive. He says he winced and shouted from the pain. As he was led away to isolation, one of the male officers looked down at him. "Don't tell me you're going to cry like a little bitch," he allegedly told Quiñones. "Take it like a man."

The following night, Quiñones' mother, Cindy Quiñones, arrived at the jail with Josie Montoya and several other Anaheim community activists. They spent several fruitless hours trying to see a watch commander to ask whether Quiñones would be given medical attention. They say they were forced to wait outside in the cold; shortly after midnight, they gave up.

Cindy Quiñones and Montoya finally got their meeting with jail officials on Nov. 20. They were told that the female officer who woke Quiñones called for backup because she "feared for her life." They confirmed that Quiñones would be kept in the hole for 15 days, when jail officials would decide whether to send him back for 15 more.

Santa Ana jail officials never returned the Weekly's telephone calls for this story. For his part, Quiñones said he was allowed to see a jail nurse the day after the incident. "She saw me for one and half minutes and said she saw no sign of abuse on me," Quiñones said. "The only reason they gave me medical attention was because of my mom.

"I'm just mad because I wouldn't even be in this situation if I went to court," said Quiñones. "I just feel that I was cheated out of my release. I could have gotten my time reduced because I was doing well."

 
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