Sacramento shooting suspect to get $7,500 from county to settle jail treatment lawsuit

Sacramento County Main Jail
Smiley Martin, suspect in last week's shooting in Sacramento, was poised to receive $7,500 from the county over what he described as mistreatment during an earlier stint in the Sacramento County jail. Above: Sacramento County Main Jail. (Xavier Mascarenas / Sacramento Bee)

One of the men arrested in connection with the deadly Sacramento shootout last week had reached a $7,500 financial settlement agreement with Sacramento County less than a month before the gun battle that left six dead and 12 wounded, records show.

After the shooting during the early morning of April 3, Smiley Martin, 27, faces charges of being in possession of a machine gun. Police said Martin was injured in the shootout and will be transferred to Sacramento County Main Jail as soon as his medical treatments are complete.

But just weeks before he ended up wounded in a gun battle near the state Capitol, Martin, who has a long rap sheet, was poised to receive $7,500 from the county over what he described as mistreatment during an earlier stint in the Sacramento County jail.

The financial settlement over his jail time is unrelated to the events on the K Street Mall. But the payout to an alleged gang member — now in the spotlight for the region’s most notorious spasm of violence in recent memory — underscores how Sacramento County continues to incur costs over problems at its jail, which has been managed by Sheriff Scott Jones since he was elected in late 2010.

Martin was in the jail in 2018 on his way to state prison to serve time on an assault charge. He alleged — in a lawsuit he filed pro se, meaning he represented himself — that a jail guard allowed rival gang members to attack him and then threatened him when he filed a complaint about it.

On the morning of Jan. 28, he alleged that the guard, J. Her, released rival gang members for breakfast at the same time, against jail policy. Martin said he was surrounded by enemies who attacked him, throwing hot water on him and giving him a second-degree burn on his hip. Martin, who wrote the initial complaint in his own careful handwriting, also claimed that after the fight, no one came to see if he needed medical attention, nor did guards report the fight as required.

After the fight, Martin filed a grievance against Her, saying the guard had neglected the inmates. When the guard saw the grievance the next morning, Martin claimed, he woke Martin up and argued with him about it, and then sent another inmate to tell Martin that if he didn’t withdraw the grievance, Her would make sure inmates got gang enhancements and another strike.

Smiley Martin in a Feb. 6 booking photo.
Smiley Martin in a Feb. 6 booking photo. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Martin, in a deposition taken in the case, also said he had been involved in a lot of fights while at the jail — as many as 10. But he had never before filed a grievance, he said.

Reached by telephone, Her declined to comment. In court papers, the county denied Martin's retaliation claims and asked for the case to be dismissed.

A magistrate judge reviewed the court filings, as well as a video of the fight captured on the jail camera and Martin’s deposition. In August 2020, the judge dismissed some of the claims, but allowed others to go forward for trial in federal court.

A jury trial was set for April, but on March 18, Martin, since released from state prison, notified the court that a settlement had been reached.

County officials confirmed the settlement and said the amount was $7,500. A county spokesperson said that "the county's decision to settle was purely an economic decision" and should not be understood as an indication that officials thought Martin's claims had merit. The settlement contained no other provisions. Officials added that the county has cut the check, but not yet delivered it to Martin through his lawyer.

Sacramento County has a long history of litigation against its jails, while local media, including the Sacramento Bee, have reported on the large number of inmates dying there. Both lines of inquiry have fed accusations the county turns a blind eye to those mistreated and killed while behind bars.

In 2020, Sacramento County entered in a settlement with Disability Rights California Prison Law Office and others over a years-long dispute regarding the conditions in county jail. The class-action lawsuit that led to the settlement alleged that Sacramento County failed to provide legally required mental health care and medical treatment to inmates, used “harsh and extreme” forms of solitary confinement and discriminated against those with disabilities.

Among the specific allegations were that some people were kept in dark cells, alone, for 23½ hours a day, and that others were housed in areas “unfit for human habitation.”

One man, Lorenzo Mays, claimed he spent eight years in solitary confinement.

Martin's lawyer did not respond to a message, nor did a spokesperson for Jones, the sheriff.

Times staff writer Anita Chabria contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.