By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Another witness weighs in on the jailhouse beating of ex-Kiss guitarist Mark Leslie Norton
Although the Orange County Sheriff's Department insists it and the FBI are jointly investigating a mysterious September 2006 beating inside Theo Lacy jail, there is no evidence that either agency has conducted a single interview to get to the bottom of the alleged assault. The beating, sources say, involved numerous inmates attacking ex-Kiss guitarist Mark Leslie Norton for at least half an hour in full view of a guard tower. It took place inside F-West, the same dormitory where, just days later, inmates allegedly murdered John Chamberlain, a Mission Viejo man awaiting trial on charges of possessing child pornography.
As the Weekly has reported (See "Theo Lacy Unmasked," April 17, and "Smashes, Thrashes & Hits," June 19), Norton, a longtime drug addict who died in April 2007 of a brain hemorrhage, spent two weeks at Theo Lacy after being arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and attempted destruction of evidence. Jail records show Norton reportedly told deputies he had stolen crackers from another inmate and wished to be moved to another area of the jail out of fear for his safety. Those records mention nothing about what happened next. Jared Petrovich, a leader or "shot-caller" for the "Woods"—jail slang for the white-inmate gang—one of nine inmates charged with murdering Chamberlain, claims that Norton was severely beaten shortly after being moved to F-West. Petrovich's predecessor, a shot-caller who asked not to be identified by name but whose Woods moniker is "Sick Dog," confirms this account.
Both Petrovich and Sick Dog claim that Deputy Kevin Taylor, the same guard who allegedly "outed" Chamberlain as a sex offender, personally approved of the beating and rewarded inmates who attacked Norton with sack lunches afterward. The Weekly first exposed the beating two months ago; Norton's family then contacted the DA's office, which forwarded their complaint to the sheriff's department and the FBI. Yet neither Sick Dog, who described the beating in a letter to the Weekly from his federal prison cell, nor Petrovich, who is still incarcerated at Theo Lacy, appears to have received so much as a phone call from any law-enforcement agency.
The list of witnesses who aren't being interviewed is now growing. Another former inmate who asked not to be identified by name, but whom the Weekly has confirmed was housed at F-West when both the Norton and Chamberlain assaults took place, says he personally witnessed the attack on Norton.
The ex-inmate, a white businessman serving time for repeated drunk-driving offenses, claims Norton knew he was going to be worked over immediately upon being transferred to F-West because Sick Dog, who led the Woods gang inside the dormitory, had previously been Norton's drug dealer.
"The Kiss guy [Norton] told me that he knew he was going to get beat up," the ex-inmate says. "He told me he's been a doper forever and he bought from [Sick Dog] and was fearful. He knew what was going to happen: 'I know I'm gonna get beat up; I know I'm gonna be hit.' I said, 'Don't fight back and maybe they will have some leniency.'" The inmate adds that Sick Dog also told him that Norton was going to be assaulted. "[Sick Dog] told me the Kiss guy bought drugs from him for four, five, six years," the inmate says. "He said he recognized him right away and despised him because he ratted on him. He got permission from Taylor to beat him up."
In his letter to the Weekly, Sick Dog told a different story, claiming that Taylor told him Norton had stolen property from another inmate and deserved to be assaulted, rewarding him with sack lunches after he arranged the beating. Sick Dog did not mention if he was personally involved in the attack, but according to the inmate who says he witnessed the attack, Sick Dog did most of the punching, although three other inmates later charged with murdering Chamberlain—Christopher Teague, Garret Aguilar and Raul Villafana—also participated. "[Sick Dog] is the one that started beating him up," the inmate claims. "He's a big guy, a mean guy with a tattoo on his head, and these kids idolized him and tried to duplicate what he did. Teams of three came in and worked him over right in front of the guard station. He puked; he spit up blood. . . . He wouldn't yell out, but when he moaned, 'Oh, no,' they'd just hit him harder. Most of the blows were to the rib area, the heart and the stomach, just a few to the face."
After the assault, the inmate says, he tried to comfort Norton, congratulating him for not screaming. "He was horrifically beat up," he says. "He didn't move for at least five or six days. He didn't ask to go see a doctor. He didn't move from his bunk for a week. I gave him a cup to urinate in because he couldn't get up to go to the bathroom."
Apparently, Norton's composure during the attack also impressed Sick Dog. "He came back the next day and brought him a sack lunch and asked if he was going to be okay, like it was over," the inmate says.