from a newspaper website:
"Although the Orange County Sheriff's Department insists it and the FBI are jointly investigating a mysterious September 2006 beating inside Theo Lacy jail, there is no evidence that either agency has conducted a single interview to get to the bottom of the alleged assault. The beating, sources say, involved numerous inmates attacking ex-Kiss guitarist Mark Leslie Norton for at least half an hour in full view of a guard tower. It took place inside F-West, the same dormitory where, just days later, inmates allegedly murdered John Chamberlain, a Mission Viejo man awaiting trial on charges of possessing child pornography.
As the Weekly has reported (See "Theo Lacy Unmasked," April 17, and "Smashes, Thrashes & Hits," June 19), Norton, a longtime drug addict who died in April 2007 of a brain hemorrhage, spent two weeks at Theo Lacy after being arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and attempted destruction of evidence. Jail records show Norton reportedly told deputies he had stolen crackers from another inmate and wished to be moved to another area of the jail out of fear for his safety. Those records mention nothing about what happened next. Jared Petrovich, a leader or "shot-caller" for the "Woods"—jail slang for the white-inmate gang—one of nine inmates charged with murdering Chamberlain, claims that Norton was severely beaten shortly after being moved to F-West. Petrovich's predecessor, a shot-caller who asked not to be identified by name but whose Woods moniker is "Sick Dog," confirms this account.
Both Petrovich and Sick Dog claim that Deputy Kevin Taylor, the same guard who allegedly "outed" Chamberlain as a sex offender, personally approved of the beating and rewarded inmates who attacked Norton with sack lunches afterward. The Weekly first exposed the beating two months ago; Norton's family then contacted the DA's office, which forwarded their complaint to the sheriff's department and the FBI. Yet neither Sick Dog, who described the beating in a letter to the Weekly from his federal prison cell, nor Petrovich, who is still incarcerated at Theo Lacy, appears to have received so much as a phone call from any law-enforcement agency.
The list of witnesses who aren't being interviewed is now growing. Another former inmate who asked not to be identified by name, but whom the Weekly has confirmed was housed at F-West when both the Norton and Chamberlain assaults took place, says he personally witnessed the attack on Norton.
The ex-inmate, a white businessman serving time for repeated drunk-driving offenses, claims Norton knew he was going to be worked over immediately upon being transferred to F-West because Sick Dog, who led the Woods gang inside the dormitory, had previously been Norton's drug dealer.
"The Kiss guy [Norton] told me that he knew he was going to get beat up," the ex-inmate says. "He told me he's been a doper forever and he bought from [Sick Dog] and was fearful. He knew what was going to happen: 'I know I'm gonna get beat up; I know I'm gonna be hit.' I said, 'Don't fight back and maybe they will have some leniency.'" The inmate adds that Sick Dog also told him that Norton was going to be assaulted. "[Sick Dog] told me the Kiss guy bought drugs from him for four, five, six years," the inmate says. "He said he recognized him right away and despised him because he ratted on him. He got permission from Taylor to beat him up."
In his letter to the Weekly, Sick Dog told a different story, claiming that Taylor told him Norton had stolen property from another inmate and deserved to be assaulted, rewarding him with sack lunches after he arranged the beating. Sick Dog did not mention if he was personally involved in the attack, but according to the inmate who says he witnessed the attack, Sick Dog did most of the punching, although three other inmates later charged with murdering Chamberlain—Christopher Teague, Garret Aguilar and Raul Villafana—also participated. "[Sick Dog] is the one that started beating him up," the inmate claims. "He's a big guy, a mean guy with a tattoo on his head, and these kids idolized him and tried to duplicate what he did. Teams of three came in and worked him over right in front of the guard station. He puked; he spit up blood. . . . He wouldn't yell out, but when he moaned, 'Oh, no,' they'd just hit him harder. Most of the blows were to the rib area, the heart and the stomach, just a few to the face."
After the assault, the inmate says, he tried to comfort Norton, congratulating him for not screaming. "He was horrifically beat up," he says. "He didn't move for at least five or six days. He didn't ask to go see a doctor. He didn't move from his bunk for a week. I gave him a cup to urinate in because he couldn't get up to go to the bathroom."
Apparently, Norton's composure during the attack also impressed Sick Dog. "He came back the next day and brought him a sack lunch and asked if he was going to be okay, like it was over," the inmate says.
The notion that Norton had been moved to F-West on his own request because he'd stolen crackers, the inmate insists, doesn't ring true. He's certain Sick Dog discovered Norton was inside Theo Lacy and convinced Taylor to arrange for his transfer inside the facility. He also doesn't believe the sheriff's department or any other agency has any interest in investigating the assault. "These cops are not investigating," he says. "The first thing you do is interview the people who are in the same room when it happened. They say they're investigating? That's a crock of shit."
Sheriff's department probing alleged jail beating of former Kiss guitarist
On April 9, after a nine-month grand-jury investigation into the gruesome murder of John Chamberlain, an inmate awaiting trial for possession of child pornography at Theo Lacy Jail in Orange, acting Orange County Sheriff Jack Anderson suspended five deputies at the jail and invited the FBI to investigate whether inmates' civil rights had been violated.
Two months later, Anderson is on his way out the door—soon to be replaced by Sandra Hutchens, Orange County's first female sheriff—and it's unclear how far that investigation has gone. Two of the suspended deputies told grand jurors that Kevin Taylor—the guard who allegedly outed Chamberlain as a "child molester" to the nine inmates currently facing murder charges in the fatal October 2006 beating—had routinely allowed inmates to be assaulted for violating jailhouse rules.
Gold Album Days: Mark Leslie Norton circa mid-'80s
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Mark Leslie Norton
Criminal Sentencing and Punishment
Both Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and John McDonald, a sheriff's department spokesman, confirm that at least one case is being actively investigated: that of former Kiss guitarist Mark Leslie Norton, who served two weeks at the jail in September 2006 for possession of drug paraphernalia and attempted destruction of evidence. Norton died of what the Orange County coroner ruled was a drug-related brain hemorrhage in April 2007.
Better known by his stage name, Mark St. John, Norton was housed in Theo Lacy a few weeks before Chamberlain's murder. As the Weekly previously reported (see "Theo Lacy Unmasked," April 7), jail records show that Norton told guards he'd stolen crackers from another inmate and was "in fear for his safety" before being moved to another location inside the jail. Although the files don't mention Norton ever being assaulted or seeking medical treatment, Jared Petrovich, a shot-caller for white inmates (who are known as "Woods") now facing trial in Chamberlain's murder, told the Weekly he and another inmate informed Taylor they were going to arrange to have Norton assaulted for the theft and that Taylor approved of their plan—offering them sack lunches in return for carrying it out.
"He [Norton] got beat up pretty bad," Petrovich claimed in that story.
The other inmate Petrovich was referring to, a Woods shot-caller who preceded Petrovich in that role and left Theo Lacy shortly before Chamberlain's murder, is now in federal custody. In a letter to the Weekly, he asked not to be identified by name but confirmed Petrovich's story about St. John.
"Kevin Taylor told me personally that St. John was caught steeling [sic] from another inmate in D barracks and needed his ass kicked," the inmate wrote. "So just so we are clear, a theif [sic] is a 'house' [i.e., inmate] issue, so everybody gets to take a shot, so over the next couple of hours, wave after wave of inmates beat that dude while Deputy Taylor sat in the bubble. Whether he watched or not, I don't know. But he sure as hell knew what was happening. . . . After Mark St. John was beaten, we were rewarded with a whole milk crate of sack lunches."
Three additional sources—two friends and one relative of Norton's—confirm that Norton was indeed attacked while behind bars but offer a different explanation for why it happened.
One of those sources, a family member speaking on behalf of Norton's parents, refused to comment for this story except to confirm that Norton had been assaulted at Theo Lacy and that the family had retained a lawyer who had contacted the DA's office. "We referred it to the sheriff's department, and my understanding is they referred it to the FBI," Schroeder says.
"We received the information from the DA's office, and it's actively under investigation by the department," McDonald confirms.
Another source, Norton's ex-girlfriend, who asked to remain anonymous, also confirms Norton had been badly beaten, adding that she believes the incident was responsible for his untimely death several months later.
"I . . . will testify under oath to the fact that he was severely beaten at Theo Lacy," she said in an e-mail. "I personally went to the facility a few days before he was beaten to visit him, and he told me that he feared for his life. I didn't take it serious[ly] until the day he was released and I went to visit him and was heartbroken to see him beaten to the point that I didn't recognize him."
While Norton was still behind bars, but before the assault, the woman claims, Norton told her he had "snitched" on a drug dealer several years earlier, and that if his identity as a snitch became known inside the jail, he was certain to be attacked. "He had a friend there who heard deputies saying he was a snitch," she said in an interview. Norton told her he'd been attacked by as many as 20 inmates, who stabbed him with pencils and beat him. "He was never the same, even after he healed on the outside," she wrote in the e-mail. "He was hurting on the inside. He often had severe headaches and body aches and many times said it was due to the beating. I wanted him to see a doctor on many occasions, but he had no medical insurance."
The woman claims that despite the coroner's official ruling of his death as a brain hemorrhage due to a drug overdose, she was with him the night before he died and he wasn't taking drugs. She is convinced the bleeding was caused by his assault at the jail several months earlier. "He did not die from an accidental overdose," she wrote. "I was the last person to see him alive."
Another friend of Norton's who asked to remain anonymous confirms that Norton had snitched on a drug dealer several years ago after being arrested for possession of methamphetamine. He claims that the arresting officer was a Garden Grove cop who happened to be a former high-school classmate of Norton's. "He had been busted once, and then got caught again, and he rolled over on some guy," the friend claims. "Everybody knew he rolled on somebody. His name went around the jail: Mark Norton; if he ends up here, he's going to get his ass kicked."
According to the source, Norton never talked about his experience behind bars but seemed to be "on autopilot" after his release, clearly lost in his drug addiction. "He would invite anybody but a cop in uniform to party at his house," the friend says. "He sold all his outfits, everything but the gold record. At the end, he was mowing lawns, doing roofing. He was so desperate for dope."
Based on Petrovich's claim, I dug up jail records that showed Mark Leslie Norton, a former Kiss guitarist and meth addict, had been transferred from one area of Theo Lacy to F-West barracks just a month before Chamberlain was killed. In a letter from state prison, Sick Dog told me that Taylor had informed him of Norton's thievery in the other area of the jail and promised him extra sack lunches if he saw to it that the prisoner was punished once he reached F-West. Several inmates who witnessed the attack told me Norton was beaten so badly he couldn't leave his cell for more than a day, yet he was never given any medical attention. He died of a brain hemorrhage several months after he left jail, in April 2007.
According to the Orange County Coroner, the cause of death was a brain hemorrhage bought on by an accidental overdose of methamphetamines on April 5, 2007. The Weekly's attempts to reach Norton's family for comment were unsuccessful.
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