The Hard Cell At the OC Jail

[Moxley Confidential] Deputies locked an innocent man in a cell with a homicidal, white-supremacist gangster and walked away

Plenty of clues tell us something is wrong with Brian Lee James. One of his eyes—the ones that cast cold, empty stares—is lazy. His speech is sluggish and prone to the short, simple sentences of a man who has only a boy's vocabulary. He earned the moniker "Blinky" because he blinks at an abnormally high rate. There is no trace of kindness in his smile. His declarations are often irrational, narcissistic and violent. He says criminals should be punished severely—and he'll volunteer for the task.

Hardly surprising, then, that this psychopath is a member of Public Enemy Number One Death Squad (PEN1), the Southern California-born white-supremacist gang prone to vicious, methamphetamine-crazed crimes, including murder. To declare his allegiance to this pro-Hitler underworld, he inked a PEN1 tattoo in 4-inch letters across his stomach.

Cops know all about PEN1. A veteran gang detective told me, "They will kill in a heartbeat. These guys have no conscience."

MSNBC's Lockup was supposed to glorify OC jail deputies, but gangster Brian Lee James wrecked the plan
Photo illustration by Andrea Adams
MSNBC's Lockup was supposed to glorify OC jail deputies, but gangster Brian Lee James wrecked the plan

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Yet, on Aug. 22, 2010, Orange County Sheriff's deputies did something that was either incredibly cruel or incredibly stupid involving James—and managed to keep the gory incident away from the public until it was presented this year, albeit without context, on MSNBC's Lockup: Extended Stay Orange County Jail series.

Before I describe that crime, some background is necessary.

In October 2006, then-Sheriff Mike Carona and his top two assistant sheriffs were well on their way to federal corruption convictions when a Theo Lacy Jail inmate, John Derek Chamberlain, was savagely murdered. After Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) officials initially blocked outside investigators from the crime scene (and, according to the district attorney's office, fabricated a piece of exculpatory evidence for themselves), authorities arrested six inmates, some of whom claimed deputies had signaled for Chamberlain, awaiting trial on child-pornography possession charges, to be beaten.

The guards escaped charges, but a grand jury investigation proved jail deputies "regularly" avoided work to watch television, play video games, browse the Internet, chat with girlfriends online, manage outside businesses and sleep. The probe also found that deputies fabricated duty logs, ordered powerful inmates to discipline weaker ones, created a secret code to alert one another when dignitaries approached for inspections and, for entertainment, fired non-lethal "pepper balls" at inmates sitting on toilets.

It was a national embarrassment, one MSNBC producers at 44 Blue Productions in Studio City in 2006 suggested they could help to solve if allowed to air a positive documentary about the grueling, dangerous life of the jail deputies. Given that jail was just one of Carona's myriad scandals, it's hardly surprising the offer was rejected.

Skip to February 2010. The TV producers made a second request to feature OC jails in Lockup: Extended Stay. In an email, producer Ray Haimes assured officials they could "trust" the series would give the department "an opportunity for staff to display their professionalism."

Haimes also promised to put "a human face" on the subjects so that "legislators and the public" could appreciate "the challenges of running a high-security facility." With the department poised to endure another round of bad national publicity during the upcoming trial of the accused Chamberlain killers, officials agreed to allow filming if they were given content control over what the public would see and learn on the broadcasts. In fact, the documentary producers declared in writing they would not present "derogatory" information about the OCSD, which was worried about "maintaining . . . public trust," records obtained by OC Weekly show.

This brings us back to James and PEN1, whose members have zero tolerance for men accused of sex crimes. Before he arrived on death row in San Quentin State Prison, Costa Mesa PEN1 loon Billy Joe Johnson used a pickaxe to obliterate the skull of another inmate convicted of sexual assault. After that incident, Johnson thought a young man had disrespected a female stripper, so he murdered him with a rusty claw hammer.

Suffice to say, nobody in his right mind would lock you in a room with the likes of Johnson or James if you'd been accused of a sex crime. That would be like placing a puppy in a cage with a starving boa constrictor. The outcome is guaranteed to be gruesome.

On the night of Aug. 21, 2010, James launched a wild crime spree in Anaheim that included armed robbery, multiple home invasions and attempted murder of a pursuing cop. Once he'd been detained, the 32-year-old Temple City resident confessed, admitted his gang tie and acknowledged two prior prison terms, according to police records. The last fact meant that James faced California's Three Strikes Law and the high probability he'd never see freedom again.

Cue MSNBC's Lockup. Announcer: "Since the new [jail] arrivals charges may range from minor infractions to murder, deputies must be vigilant to insure safety."

When he arrived at the Intake Center of OC Men's Central Jail, the PEN1 gangster was processed and placed in a holding cell with another man who'd just been arrested for—drum roll—sexual battery.

Announcer: "With nothing left to lose, James turned Intake into a crime scene. . . . James decided to become the man's worst nightmare."

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9 comments
Mohd Mughrabi
Mohd Mughrabi

Jail is for prisoners. Inmates will say and do anything to discredit law enforcement. A woman recently arrested in Irvine, named Kelli Staska domestically violated her husband along with endangering her child is now attacking the law enforcement agency for sexual and police brutality. This is a woman who strikes at her husband, endangers and abandons her own child. She is now trying to beat down law enforcement who put their lives on the line everyday to kept us safe. What is the world coming to????

Ikitty Mailguard1
Ikitty Mailguard1

this is truly a sick story.three weeks ago my neighbor was arrested for verbal/physical assault against a woman who claimed she's his girlfriend.i heard them verbally carry on until 5-6:00am - but he was telling her that he didn't need the problems she instilled on him.she wrote a paper stating that he beat her, etc, etc.cops came and took him to ocj and put him in a cell with two skinheads, who beat the s--t out of him.next morning they released him because the woman recanted her story.

he doesn't have medical insurance, so the emergency room couldn't do anything about his nose, which is,now, almost flush with the rest of his face, except stop the bleeding.guy is not the same person i met two months ago - physically, mentally or emotionally.

way to go cops - throw a skinny, 5"3' guy into a cell with two skinheads with nothing to do.

i hope he sues EVERYONE involved and WINS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

the police obviously have nothing to do either - so why not watch some live entertainment ?

try screwing your heads on the exact opposite way than your bosses tell you,you might see things differently - what goes around, comes around.

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Brookexfiles

The police seriously need to learn how to care! Our friends, children and family members are dying from the disregard and negligence of the jail staff. If a person is at this "rehabilitation center" u r in charge of a life. What is going on here? Enough is enough! My brother died in your hands 5 months & 24 days ago. U have no answer as to cause of death STILL. While u tuck your families in at night, there are families who are left with memories. We walk in a haze knowing life has now changed forever! Our family chain is broken. Yet u still continue to knowingly put someone in a cell to "share." With a man who is waiting for this oppurtunity to act on "what do I have to lose" outlook. Were you hoping he would do this, did u give him the go ahead to "take care" of this innocent victim?The truth always comes out and you OC jail "rehabilitation" are in serious trouble. There is no way out of this abuse you conduct at your "job."

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