What happened to him in S.F.'s Jail No. 3 in San Bruno still haunts the young man's life.
The nightmare began while Besk was driving near Fisherman's Wharf on Sept. 22, 1990. A cop, looking for a car thief, pulled him over. Besk was no auto thief, but he did have 7 ounces of marijuana in the vehicle. The officer hauled him off to jail.
After a few days at a downtown lockup, the Sheriff's Department transferred Besk to Jail No. 3 in San Bruno.
The teen-ager, a gardener from the woodsy environs of New Hampshire, landed on the fourth floor of the southern tier at San Bruno, known as 4-South. At the time, the tier was reserved for low-level offenders.
A few days before Besk arrived on 4-South, Monroe "L.A." Jones had been locked up there. Jones was in jail because he had assaulted two men and been arrested while in possession of a firearm. Jones had previously been found guilty of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, and statutory rape. He also had a history of predatory sex crimes.
Somehow, though, this background escaped the attention of the jailers at San Bruno, and L.A. Jones was classified as a low-level offender and placed on 4-South. Worse yet, he was made a jail trustee, meaning he was given responsibilities, such as distributing food, that ordinary inmates did not have. With those responsibilities came authority and power.
Immediately, L.A. used that power to prey on Billy Besk.
"Each day," Besk has stated in sworn court filings, "L.A. would come to me and say I was cute, that he wanted some pussy, would I take a shower with him, and I would just walk away from him, although there was no place to go.
"L.A. was a very large man about 43 years old, who obviously had a lot of prison experience. He organized 4-South like a prison tier. He ran it, everyone was his henchman."
Deputies neither saw nor heard L.A.'s propositions because, Besk declared, "[o]ften deputies weren't around when you needed them, and the only time deputies actually came into the tier was when they were locking or unlocking the individual cells. When the deputies were outside the tier, they couldn't see inside the cells on the tier."
On Oct. 3, 1990, one of the inmates who had come under the control of trustee Jones, Darren Smith, told Besk he'd have to fight his cellmate, Yusef, to prove he wasn't a "pussy." After the fight, Smith and another trustee led Besk back to his cell, where they beat him, forced his head into the toilet, and made him drink dirty toilet water. Afterward, Smith and the other trustee had him stand on his head.
"Can you take it?" they asked him repeatedly. "You going to run to L.A.?"
This abuse went on for approximately 30 minutes. Then Jones entered the cell with a plastic container of butter.
"He put a blanket up on the cell front, while a guy named Leo stood outside as a lookout. L.A. said, 'Take your pants off,' and I was in great fear at the time, since L.A. had previously stated that he could kill me. I took my pants off because I was terrified. L.A. told me to get on the bed, and I sat down, but he told me, 'No, lie down.'
"He then took his index finger, put it in the plastic jar, and then inserted it in my anus. At that point, I stuck my head in the bed, so I wouldn't have to think about what was happening. I keep seeing it now, keep thinking about it, it feels gross, I feel dirty.
"L.A. stroked himself, giving himself an erection, using the butter. He then got on top of me, and grabbed my fists with his hands and proceeded to put his penis in me. I kept saying, 'Ouch,' since it hurt terribly. L.A. said, 'Shut the fuck up.'
"After a few minutes, someone yelled, 'Deputy on the tier,' and L.A. got off, made me put my pants on, and made me pre-tend that we were playing cards, until the deputy left.
"L.A. put the blanket back up. He had me stand at the toilet leaning over, and he greased me, as well as himself. He then had me lie back on the bed, reinserted himself, and proceeded to rape me for about five more minutes. He had an orgasm. It was horrible. There was no conversation."
According to the Sheriff's Department's report on the incident, the entire time Jones was raping Besk, inmates were peeking behind the curtain and laughing. Others jumped on the table in the middle of the tier to try to get a look at Besk "getting punked."
"When it was over," Besk told the court, "L.A. said, 'Don't worry, when we do it again, it won't hurt as much, you'll get used to it, you'll like it.' "
Jones told the teen-ager he was now "his wife."
"He and some others told me snitches die in jail," Besk declared. The other inmates made fun of Besk, called him Jones' "wife," taunted him with comments like, "Can I have some of that pussy?"
Over the next couple of days, Besk told deputies he was thinking of committing suicide. But he did not tell them he had been raped.
This is how he described his emotions in court: "I felt gross, sick. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, I still have problems sleeping. It's getting worse. I sometimes feel like I'm going crazy."
Besk was too terrified to inform on Jones, but, amazingly, another inmate, 21-year-old Hannibal Thompson, was so angered by the rape that he told his public defender, who in turn told the Sheriff's Department. Jones and his henchman, Smith, were arrested.