U.S. News

Two San Francisco deputies plead not guilty in alleged 'Fight Club' jail incident

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Two of the three San Francisco sheriff’s deputies charged with arranging “Fight Club” duels between jail inmates pleaded not guilty on Monday, officials said.

Deputy Eugene Jones and ex-Deputy Scott Neu, who faced the most serious charges, entered not guilty pleas and were out on bail, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office spokesman Max Szabo said.

The charges come as newly elected San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy is implementing jail reforms, such as increased use of video cameras, to prevent such incidents.

The District Attorney’s Office described scenes reminiscent of the 1999 film “Fight Club” when bringing the charges.

Prosecutors said that on March 5, 2015, Neu pitted two jail inmates against each other, threatening to use a taser gun against them unless they fought,

Thinking they had no choice, the inmates battled and the smaller one hurt his rib, prosecutors said. A third deputy, Clifford Chiba, is accused of watching the melee and not stopping it.

The next day, Neu again forced the pair to fight and Jones took part in pitting them against each other, according to prosecutors. At other times, Neu forced inmates to gamble for food, clean clothing, bedding and other items, prosecutors added.

Neu was charged with assault by an officer, criminal threats and inhumanity to a prisoner. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.

An attorney for Neu denied the allegations, saying he allowed two inmates to wrestle to settle a dispute.

Jones and Chiba were charged with cruel and unusual punishment and willful omission to perform their duty, and Jones was also charged with assault by an officer.

Chiba is set to be arraigned on Tuesday morning, Szabo said.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Peter Cooney