By Cres Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
DUBLIN, CA – Yolanda Huang—a civil rights and defense lawyer who makes it a habit of suing jails and police for mistreating people—said Tuesday she has filed an internal affairs complaint against deputies at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail who she claims are guilty of “racist discrimination and conduct” because she’s a “non-white” attorney.
Huang said she’s under no illusion Internal Affairs will help, but she has already received some relief in U.S. District Court, where a judge has ruled counsel for “County Defendants shall ensure that the Jail follows the same rules with respect to Plaintiffs’ counsel’s visits with her clients in preparation for the depositions and for the depositions themselves as it does for all other counsel visits.”
Huang, in a statement released Tuesday night, said depositions are due soon in federal court.
Huang said, according to her IA complaint, “On Friday, June 17, 2022, I experienced an ongoing pattern of harassment, so much so that I have had to raise this issue with the Court, and obtained (a) Court order that I am to be treated just like every other attorney. Despite that court order, I am still being subjected to racist and discriminatory treatment.”
She named deputies “Hunt and DeLima” in her IA complaint.
In her complaint, Huang charged, “I appeared at Santa Rita Jail (on June 17) for contact visits with a paper pass. I, and three other attorneys, one white female and two white males were gathered to be cleared to enter the secure area of the jail.”
“When I presented my documents for the paper pass, my documents were meticulously examined, repeatedly, and held up to the light for inspection. Deputy Hunt explained that “fake” legal documents were being presented with liquid meth embedded on the pages,” explained Huang.
“None of the three white attorneys were subjected to this level of inspection. From all appearances, the searches of their documents were cursory. None of the other three, white, attorneys were advised that the jail was looking for ‘fake’ legal documents being used to smuggle in liquid meth,” she said.
Huang added, “I had notebooks for clients and I was told that the notebooks did not constitute ‘documents’ and that not only could I not give these documents to clients, I could not keep them on my person. Deputy Hunt insisted that I surrender them to the jail. I refused, knowing that giving up custody could open myself to having drugs planted in those notebooks, and false accusations.
“I would also note that a white male attorney was permitted to enter the secure area of the jail with a metal insulated cup of what appeared to be liquid coffee, which I believe is totally against the rules. Deputy Hunt did not say ‘boo’ or even mention the metal, insulated cup although that metal, insulated coffee cup was in plain sight.”
Huang added, “I was also told by the white, male attorney that he routinely provided blank paper to his clients, with the only limitation that he could only provide 250 sheets at a time. When Deputy Hunt stated that my notebooks were not contained within the definition of ‘documents’ in the jail’s policy. When asked for the definition of ‘documents,’ his response was ‘I shouldn’t be having this conversation.’
“When I asked who this conversation should be had with, he said his superior, and identified Sgt. DeLima. When I asked him to contact Sgt. DeLima, he left for 15 minutes, returned and said Sgt. DeLima would be coming up. After an additional 20 minutes, and only after I asked the front desk to page Sgt. DeLima, Deputy Hunt returned to state that Sgt. DeLima was unavailable,” said Huang.
“By this time, I had been waiting in the lobby for an hour. Then Deputy Hunt informed me that I had to surrender the notebooks and I was also informed that unless I surrendered the notebooks, I would not be permitted admittance, so I left the jail without conducting any interviews,” noted Huang.
Huang charged, “Clearly, racial bias being exercised—with none of the white attorneys being told that items which could not be given to inmates, contained in their good-size brief cases, had to be surrendered. They were all permitted to enter with their briefcases intact.
“The insinuation that I am engaged in smuggling ‘fake’ legal documents embedded with meth into the jail, when none of the other white attorneys are subjected to anything close to the level of inspection I was subjected to, and a white, male attorney is permitted to bring a metal insulated mug, into the secure area of the jail, is a clear demonstration of racist and discriminatory conduct by jail staff. I have included Sgt. DeLima in this formal complaint because Deputy Hunt repeatedly stated that he was following the orders of Sgt. DeLima,” said Huang.
“Both Deputy Hunt and Sgt. DeLima should be required to take significant training on racial bias. Racial discrimination in any form is an anathema and unacceptable conduct, especially from the institution of the Sheriff’s Office, which receives such a significant share of Alameda County taxpayer support, of which I am one,” said Huang in her complaint.
“I am making a formal request that you pull all of the video surveillance footage from the jail lobby, as it will clearly show the tall, white male attorney possessing a metal insulated cup, and being permitted to enter the secure area of the jail in possession of that cup. I am also requesting that you make the video of the complete interactions public. I am requesting a full and fair investigation and a public report on your findings,” said Huang.