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A pair of attorneys have filed their fifth case this year against Riverside County for the deaths of inmates.

Their Aug. 25 filing is on behalf of the parents of Kaushal Niroula, who was fatally strangled by her cellmate in the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center Sept. 6, 2022. Denisse Gastélum of Long Beach’s Gastélum Law and Christian Contreras of the Los Angeles Law Offices of Christian Contreras represent Niroula’s family.

The attorneys also filed on behalf of Abel Chacon’s, Michael Vasquez’s, Sara Solis’ and Richard Matus’ families May 31.

The Sheriff’s Office does not comment on pending litigation.

The jailhouse murder

Niroula was a transgender woman awaiting retrial for the financially-minded murder of a wealthy Palm Springs man. Her cellmate, Rodney Sanchez, was awaiting trial on child sexual assault charges. Her family’s suit argued that Sanchez was known to be a violent predator, and that he obviously posed a risk to Niroula.

The complaint says that Niroula and Sanchez left their shared cell for dayroom time at noon.

Niroula returned a couple of minutes after, and Sanchez returned after dayroom time ended.

The doors opened again at 1:27 p.m., but video shows the door quickly being closed from the inside.

During the next nine minutes, surveillance video shows two inmates walked by the cell before quickly walking away, the complaint says.

 The complaint says there was a beating that made so much noise it was noticed by inmates in the dayroom. The complaint claims sheriff’s deputies would have noticed the beating if they had been watching the video.

At 2:07 p.m., Sanchez left the room.

The assault, the complaint says, lasted for a minimum of 68 minutes.

Sanchez high-fived and shook hands with other inmates. The complaint claims the killing had been pre-planned by inmates and custodial staff because Niroula had been helping authorities uncover illegal wiretapping in the county jails.

At 2:35 p.m., two inmates who knew about the beating told staff to look at Niroula’s cell. When approached, Sanchez admitted to the killing.

“(She) is dead, I killed (her), there is nothing else to say,” he said, according to the Coroner’s Review as quoted in the complaint.

Sanchez pleaded guilty to Niroula’s murder at his arraignment Sept. 9, 2022.

The Niroula filing brings 12 causes of action: failure to protect from harm, failure to provide medical care, deprivation of the right to a familial relationship, municipal liability, supervisory liability, wrongful death negligence, medical malpractice negligence, failing to provide prisoner medical care, violation of California’s civil rights code, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, and a request for declaratory relief.

Recent deaths

The sheriff’s office announced eight inmate deaths in Riverside’s jails in 2023, two of which were in August. They have not announced the cause of death for most deaths, but one was from an illness. The Sheriff’s Office said one death, in the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center Jan. 12, is a murder.

Eighteen people died while incarcerated in Riverside County jails in 2022.

Gastélum and Contreras have filed complaints from the families of Abel Chacon, Michael Vasquez, Mario Solis and Richard Matus.

The California Department of Justice announced a civil rights investigation into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Feb. 23. In a video response, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco called the investigation frivolous.

The murder of Cliff Lambert

Niroula was awaiting trial, charged with the murder of Cliff Lambert, a wealthy man from Palm Springs.

Text messages included in appellate opinions indicate she was going to gain $98 million from the killing.

Her original plan, the rulings said, was to occupy Lambert at dinner, posed as an attorney, while her accomplices laid in wait for Lambert to return home. When her accomplices did not kill Lambert that night, she directed them to kill him, and arranged a follow up meeting to discuss a fake bequeathing at Lambert’s home.

During that meeting, Niroula let in two accomplices, who stabbed Lambert with his kitchen knives. The appellate ruling appeared to show she intended to sell Lambert’s house.

Niroula had worked with David Replogle, a former attorney disbarred for his involvement in the crime. Replogle worked to set up the power of attorney to take over the house after Lambert’s death. 

Niroula faced 10 charges: one for murder for financial gain, three for burglary, two for grand theft, and one each of conspiracy to commit crime, identity theft, forged documents, and receiving stolen property.

Although the appellate opinions say she was convicted of the charges, a retrial was in the works at the time of her death. She testified during her trial that she participated in the killing to frame her ex-boyfriend, who had reported her improper visa to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Niroula testified that she was raped while in county jail awaiting the resolution of her visa. She said she contracted HIV from the rape, which placed her at a known greater risk of assault because she was less able to defend herself, the complaint said.

Riverside’s court records show Sanchez was convicted on four counts of assault, two counts of a lewd acts with a child under 14 with force, six counts of aggressive sexual assault of a minor with force.

His case was filed April 6, 2015. He was convicted April 7, 2023, after the Niroula was beaten to death.

Case information

Case No. 5:23-cv-01739

California Central District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong presides.

County’s counsel is not yet announced.

Read the complaint here.

Read about the Matus complaint here.



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