Santa Clara inmate recounts alleged assault by jail guards

An inmate recounted Wednesday the attack he allegedly experienced at the hands of three Santa Clara County jail guards charged with assaulting him and murdering another inmate last year.

Juan Villa, who was allegedly assaulted by Jereh Lubrin, 29, Matthew Farris, 27, and Rafael Rodriguez, 27, said:

“I would’ve been a dead man if I had resisted.”

Villa, 46, was dressed in a red jail uniform as he took the witness stand at the Hall of Justice in San Jose on the third day of the three correctional officers’ preliminary hearing.

The defendants are accused of murdering Michael Tyree, 31, and assaulting Villa, two mentally ill inmates who were both housed in pod B on the sixth floor of the Santa Clara County Main Jail next door to the courthouse in late August.

Villa testified with his sister sitting beside him for support while answering questions from Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Braker.

On the night of Aug. 26, Villa locked himself back into his single-person cell on the unit’s upper tier to avoid a fight with another inmate over stamps during “program time,” when inmates are allowed to be outside their cells.

Villa said he was so angry that he slammed his cell door shut and sat on his bed to read the Bible.

Later on the defendants entered his cell and Lubrin asked Villa why he slammed the door.

Villa testified that he apologized before Lubrin punched him in the mouth. Lubrin showed Villa a baton he planned to hit the inmate with, but instead decided to strike him with his fist, according to Villa.

Rodriguez asked Villa why he didn’t fight the other inmate earlier during program time, then struck the inmate’s forehead with his hand, Villa testified.

Villa said Farris then placed him in a headlock and the other two correctional officers threw jabs at him.

The guards had twisted Villa’s arms and held them behind his back before they pushed him against a wall, according to Villa.

The guards then tossed him onto the bed with his face down as Lubrin punched him, Villa testified.

Villa said he continued to say “I’m sorry” and “Don’t hit me,” while the guards were attacking him:

“They were punching me without common sense.”

Braker showed photos of Villa taken by homicide investigators a day after the alleged assault that showed bruises on his wrist, left knee and arms.

Villa testified that the punches left him with bruises that were painful but he didn’t bleed.

After the assault, Villa said he had trouble falling asleep and about 15 minutes later heard screams that lasted for five minutes from another inmate’s cell at the bottom tier.

Sometime after midnight he saw people in suits and medical machines in the 6B wing, according to Villa.

On the witness stand Santa Clara County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Brown said he interviewed Villa on Aug. 28 at a Main Jail holding cell and corroborated the details the inmate conveyed of the alleged assault.

About a month before the interview, Villa was in a holding cell and purposely defecated on the ground, according to Brown.

Villa had testified that he was angry about being chained in the holding cell instead of getting checked by mental health workers.

Lubrin had entered the cell, ordered Villa down on the ground, placed him in handcuffs and smashed his head into his own feces, according to Villa.

Villa said he was then placed into his unit at the 6B pod and couldn’t clean up the filth until the following day.

While being questioned by Farris’ attorney William Rapoport, Villa testified that he took medication for depression on Aug. 26 and said he had anger issues during an interview with Brown.

The alleged assault lasted about 15 minutes, Villa said.

Under cross-examination by Lubrin’s attorney Judith Odbert, Villa said that he hears voices in his head everyday, but doesn’t talk back to them.

The 46-year-old had complained about not getting any food or sleep in the past three days because he was getting transported back and forth from jail to court.

Villa also claimed he was the “Lamb of God” and turned his bread into the stone during his lunch earlier today.

Villa said he suffered no more than 60 blows from the three jail guards and didn’t learn about Tyree’s death until a former inmate told him on the morning of Aug. 27.

Villa had told Brown that he didn’t know Tyree very well but they were transported to court together and watched TV with one another.

Judge Ron Del Pozzo is expected to rule on Villa’s competency during the hearing.

Villa was able to provide basic information including his birthday, birthplace and Social Security number when asked by Braker.

While being questioned by Rodriguez’s attorney Matthew Pavone, Villa said he didn’t hear voices in his head while in court today.

Paula Canny, an attorney for Villa and Tyree’s family, said outside court that Villa was an “effective witness.” “He was completely submissive and compliant with the officers,” Canny said on Villa’s testimony of the alleged assault.