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Deputy pleads not guilty in alleged custody assault


Stemming from 2019 Lancaster arrest

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has pleaded not guilty to three felony charges, including assault and altering evidence, in connection with a 2019 arrest in Lancaster.

Nicole Bell, 27, was charged June 4 with one count each of assault by a peace officer, accessing and altering computer data without permission and altering, planting or concealing evidence as a peace officer.

Bell is accused of assaulting a man while he sat in the back of a patrol vehicle on July 30, 2019, and then deleting video from a cellphone in which a family member had recorded some of the alleged encounter, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

A date is scheduled to be set Feb. 9 for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence against her to allow the case to proceed to trial.

“Tampering or destroying evidence tarnishes law enforcement and creates mistrust among the public,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement announcing the charges.

The case against Bell marked the third to be filed by the District Attorney’s Office against a sheriff’s deputy within about two weeks in late May and early June.

Daniel Manuel Auner, 24, was charged May 26 with murder and reckles driving for an off-duty crash in July 2020 in Torrance that killed his 23-year-old passenger, Ashley Wells, and seriously injured two other passengers. He is set to return to court Dec. 16 for the second day of a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require her to stand trial.

Kevin Honea, now 34, was charged the following day with a felony count of perjury for allegedly lying about finding a gun in a vehicle parked at a Gardena motel in May 2019. He is due in court for a pretrial hearing Jan. 19.

It was not immediately clear what the employment status of the three is with the sheriff’s department.