'Fight Club' Perpetrator Convicted of Injuring Mentally Disabled State Residents

Night shift made cell phone videos of residents at facility in Corpus Christi.

August 13, 2009— -- A former Texas State School employee was found guilty today of injuring mentally disabled residents in a case that has gained notoriety for its "fight club" videos - in which workers at a Corpus Christi, Texas state school allegedly forced residents to fight one another while the employees taped the incidents on their cell phones.

Jesse Salazar, 25, was convicted of intentionally causing injury to a disabled person and faces up to 10 years behind bars. The jury deliberated for less than two hours before coming back with a verdict.

Salazar's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Six former employees – who were since fired – have been charged in the case.

Vincent Johnson and D'Angelo Riley have both pled guilty to causing injury to disabled persons, while another employee will go on trial next week for failing to intervene. Two others are awaiting trial but have pled not guilty.

Investigators said nearly 20 videos were made using cell phones over a one-year period beginning in 2007 by former employees of the Corpus Christi State School. As previously reported by ABC News, the videos were discovered in March when one of the school employees lost his cell phone and it was turned over to police. The disturbing videos were found when police tried to identify the owner of the phone.

The videos show employees laughing and prodding mentally disabled residents to fight.

In one video, a resident is seen trying to run away from his attacker as a large group of employees and residents track him through the halls. When cornered, he wails and moans and tells the employees, "I will behave."

A judge ordered the tapes released to an attorney suing the state on behalf of a former resident also forced into the "fight club."

"It happened for over a year and it happened for many nights out of the week," said the attorney, Bob Hilliard.

Hilliard's client, Armando Hernandez, said he was told he would "go to prison" if he did not fight.

Hernandez, who is mentally disabled, said he was fearful to even tell his mother of what was happening inside at night.

"They say 'snitches get stitches,'" Hernandez told ABC News.

Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) is responsible for overseeing the Corpus Christi State School along with 13 other state run schools. The agency has come under attack in recent years over the number of abuse and neglect cases that have been reported among the nearly 5,000 residents that call the schools home. The Corpus Christi State school case raised ever greater concerns about hiring and training practices of the agency.

"It's in the hands of the judicial system," said Laura Albrecht, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) previously told ABC News. "We have taken the appropriate action to send a message to Corpus Christi and the other facilities that abuse and neglect of residents will not be tolerated."

Albrecht said the agency and executive have been making unannounced visits at the Corpus Christi school and that cameras will be installed.

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