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Former Sheriff's Employees Indicted by Grand Jury
updated: Apr 12, 2014, 10:15 AM

Source: Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office has learned the sad news that two of its former custody deputies, Christopher Johnson and Robert Kirsch, were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Los Angeles on April 10, 2014. Johnson was indicted on charges of depravation of rights under the color of law, obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting. Kirsch was indicted on charges of depravation of rights under the color of law and aiding and abetting.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, "It's a somber day for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. This agency does not tolerate the excessive or unnecessary use of force. The alleged actions are disturbing and not reflective of the professional work carried out each and every day by 99.9% of the men and women of the Sheriff's Office."

Charles Owens, who was in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail awaiting trial on murder and rape charges, alleged that Johnson and Kirsch assaulted him. The Public Defender's Office brought the allegations of misconduct to the attention of the Sheriff's Office in August of 2013. A criminal and an internal affairs investigation were immediately launched and Johnson and Kirsch were placed on administrative leave.

Upon completion of the investigation, Kirsch was terminated from the Sheriff's Office on March 7, 2014 and Johnson was terminated on March 19, 2014. The termination of these employees was an administrative action. They are still entitled to due process, as this case works itself through the legal system.

Kirsch was hired as an extra help employee at the Sheriff's Office in November of 2004, and was hired as a custody deputy in January of 2006. Johnson was hired as a custody deputy in May of 2005.

In November of 2013, Owens was found guilty on charges of first degree murder, forcible rape, oral copulation, sodomy and witness intimidation with gang enhancements. In December of 2013, he was sentenced and transferred to Folsom State Prison where he is currently serving life without parole.

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