Two custody deputies with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department entered not-guilty pleas on Friday to charges that they assaulted an inmate at the Santa Barbara County Jail.
Deputies Robert Kirsch, 30, and Christopher Johnson, 28, were each charged with assault by a public officer, a felony, stemming from an alleged assault against an inmate being housed at the jail, according to a statement released from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office earlier this month.
According to the one-page complaint against the two men, Kirsch and Johnson assaulted and beat Charles Alonzo Owens "under color of authority, the defendants being then and there public officers" on June 17.
Owens, 25, of Lompoc has been in custody since 2011 on a variety of serious charges, including a 2007 gang-related slaying in Lompoc, and a related case that involves rape, forced sodomy, attempted oral copulation, domestic battery and witness intimidation.
Kirsch and Johnson appeared before Judge Thomas Adams in Santa Barbara Superior Court for arraignment.
Johnson is being represented by Pasadena-based attorney Muna Busailah, and Kirsch has hired William Hadden of Santa Monica.
"It's our contention that both deputies did nothing wrong," Hadden told reporters outside court on Friday.
Deputy District Attorney Tony Davis is prosecuting the case.
Sheriff Bill Brown issued a statement on the situation earlier this month, saying that "our agency does not tolerate the unnecessary or excessive use of force.”
Brown said that the custody deputies, who have both been placed on administrative leave, are entitled to due process, and the case will now work its way through the criminal-justice system and an internal review within the Sheriff’s Department.
The deputies are scheduled to appear in court again on Oct. 8.