(Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)

SF sheriff’s deputy accused of punching handcuffed inmate

A San Francisco deputy sheriff is facing a criminal charge for allegedly beating a handcuffed inmate in jail.

Linton Martin, 54, has been charged with misdemeanor assault under the color of authority for allegedly punching an inmate at the San Bruno jail on June 21, 2017, according to prosecutors in San Mateo County.

Martin was arraigned in February 2018, but the case did not come to the attention of the public until Sheriff Vicki Hennessy mentioned the criminal matter during a hearing at the Board of Supervisors last Thursday.

The news comes amid new allegations from the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi that deputies beat inmates and improperly strip searched female inmates in front of male deputies in late 2018.

SEE RELATED: SF sheriff investigates new allegations of deputies beating inmates

The Sheriff’s Department is also facing calls to increase oversight of complaints against deputies after the department botched a criminal probe into allegations that deputies forced inmates to fight for food in 2015.

SEE RELATED: Bungled jail fights case leads to calls for more oversight of Sheriff’s Department

Nancy Crowley, a spokesperson for the sheriff, said Martin has been reassigned to a position where he has no contact with the public.

According to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, Martin was working at the San Bruno jail when he began to argue with the inmate in an interview room. The victim was handcuffed to another inmate.

Prosecutors say the victim hit Martin in the face. Martin called for backup, separated the two inmates and cuffed the victim behind his back.

A sergeant and another deputy were in the room when Martin allegedly told the inmate, “oh, you’re safe now, you know the other deputies are here.”

“Martin grabbed the victim inmate, pulled him away from the other deputy and the sergeant, pushed the victim inmate’s head down with his left hand and without warning struck the still handcuffed victim inmate with three or four uppercut blows to the face with a closed fist,” prosecutors said.

Martin’s colleagues pulled him away from the inmate, prosecutors said. The inmate did not want medical treatment and was not injured.

His defense attorney, Nicole Pifari, said in a statement that Martin acted in self-defense.

“Martin was the victim of a crime, and now he’s the one getting dragged into criminal court,” Pifari said. “A career felon with a 20-year history of violent crime punched Deputy Martin in the head with a fist, hard enough to leave a large lump on his head.”

“What minor force Deputy Martin may have used was a completely lawful attempt to defend himself from another vicious attack,” she continued. “The inmate had no injuries, never complained of any pain, and in fact never complained about anything at all.”

Martin is out of custody on supervised release.

The case was expected to head to trial last Tuesday but was delayed until May 6.

This story has been updated to include comment from Pifari.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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