LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty today to assaulting an inmate in the back of a patrol car, a charge brought nearly two years after the alleged incident occurred.
Matthew John Funicello, 31, is accused of hitting Dewayne Wright, who was then 19, several times with his fist on July 22, 2011. Wright was being moved from the sheriff’s Palmdale station to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility downtown at the time.
Funicello was booked at the Crescenta Valley Station in April, when the felony charge of assault under color of authority was filed, and released on $35,000 bail.
He appeared today in a dark pin-striped suit rather than his uniform.
“Every deputy charged with a felony is relieved of duty without pay” pending the outcome of their case, said defense attorney Vicki Podberesky, when asked about her client’s employment status.
Funicello is due back in court June 19, when a date is scheduled to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for him to proceed to trial.
If convicted, he faces up to three years behind bars, according to the District Attorney’s Office.