California Highway Patrol settles major racial profiling lawsuit
JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writer Thursday, February 27, 2003
(02-27) 18:24 PST SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --
The California Highway Patrol settled a major racial profiling lawsuit by agreeing to extend a ban on some car searches and requiring that officers articulate a reason for each drug-interdiction traffic stop, instead of offering a hunch the driver may be running contraband.
Under the settlement, filed Thursday in federal court, the CHP effectively foregoes policing practices that the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed legal but state officials have concluded, on balance, aren't worth it.
The settlement also requires the agency to track all stops and review that database to ensure no officer is pulling over a disproportionate number of black or Hispanic motorists. It requires CHP to pay $875,000 in legal fees and damages.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the class-action lawsuit on behalf of three San Francisco Bay area drivers, hailed the settlement as a major victory at a time when the war on terrorism has emboldened law enforcement to increase profiling.
Other profiling experts said that the institutional changes the CHP promises to undertake rank the settlement alongside similar resolutions in places including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and the state of New Jersey. California's changes include bans on searches requested by an officer and the practice of using a minor traffic violation as a pretext to stop a car when the real goal is a drug search.
"It's a recognition that using consent search powers and pretext stop powers, while legal, just don't make sense as good law enforcement," said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Toledo and a leading profiling critic. "You lose the public's confidence and you don't get a lot more guns or dope by doing this -- and you get people mad."
If a federal judge in San Jose certifies the settlement, CHP officers involved in drug interdiction must have "specific and articulable facts to support" a stop.
"A mere suspicion or 'hunch' is not sufficient," the settlement reads.
The Supreme Court has ruled that officers can search for drugs after a driver is pulled over. Thursday's settlement requires that CHP officers adhere to stricter standards. Officers must have "probable cause or reasonable suspicion" that there are drugs in the car -- for example, the smell of marijuana smoke or a dusting of cocaine on the driver's shirt.
The settlement also extends for three years a temporary moratorium on consent searches -- the kind officers can conduct only if they receive permission from a driver. The ACLU contends such searches can be a pretext for harassing minority drivers who may feel pressured to accommodate the officer.
The CHP initially instituted a temporary consent search ban in April 2001 in response to the lawsuit.
"This will make a difference on the highways and not just in the policy manuals," said Alan Schlosser, legal director for the ACLU of Northern California.
Patrol officers make about 3.2 million traffic stops per year and about 2 percent of them lead to vehicle searches.
Schlosser added that the settlement was particularly important given the targeting of Arab and Muslim Americans for scrutiny by terrorism investigators.
"It's a statement and a reminder that racial profiling is wrong," he said, "that racial profiling is not necessary for effective law enforcement."
CHP officials admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick said the ban on consent searches has not hampered his officers' ability to staunch the flow of drugs.
On Thursday, he reiterated his belief that CHP officers do not profile as a rule, though he acknowledged there may be some individual cases of profiling.
"We want to treat people fairly," Helmick said at a news conference in Sacramento. "I want to treat them like I want my family treated."
The CHP also agreed to keep detailed computer records of all traffic stops and hire an auditor to analyze the database. Supervisors in CHP field offices also must review the data to ensure day-to-day compliance.
Just how much that database will help is unclear. Law enforcement and civil rights groups often see the same statistics and draw opposite conclusions as to whether officers are profiling.
State attorneys said numbers generated during the case did not show profiling, but the ACLU countered that profiling was clear. Hispanics were nearly three times more likely than whites to be searched in central California regions that include Highway 101 and Interstate 5. Blacks were twice as likely to be searched.
The class action originated in 1999 with a single plaintiff -- San Jose attorney Curtis Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said that in June 1998, a CHP officer stopped and detained him while a drug-sniffing dog checked the car but found nothing.
Rodriguez and the two other plaintiffs will get $50,000 each under the terms of the settlement.
"Yeah, I think they did stop the wrong guy," said Rodriguez, who believes he had been profiled twice before that stop. By the third time, he had graduated from law school. "What they were doing to me was not legal."
Federal Judge Jeremy Fogel is scheduled April 7 to make a preliminary assessment whether the settlement should be enforced.
The case is Rodriguez v. California Highway Patrol, 99-20895.
©2003 Associated Press
July 5, 2002
Suspect Shot in Drug Raid Seeks $35 Million
Claims: Family of paralyzed Santa Paula man challenges city, county,
By TIMOTHY HUGHES, TIMES STAFF WRITER
The family of a Santa Paula man who was shot and left paralyzed by drug enforcement agents during an April drug raid has filed claims against the city, Ventura County and the federal government seeking $35 million in damages.
The claims were filed last month and are the first step in a process
that will most likely end with the filing of a federal lawsuit naming the
city, county and the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Stanley Raskin,
a Torrance attorney representing the family of Edward Barron.
Barron, 22, was shot in the head April 17 by a DEA agent during a confrontation in the frontyard of Barron's home. Authorities had come to arrest Barron on a range of narcotics charges. Barron, the father of three young children, has been a quadriplegic since the shooting and is bedridden at a local hospital, Raskin said. "They were killers and a killer doesn't always kill his subject," Raskin said. "[Barron] is just beginning to talk two months after the incident. He can slightly move one of his wrists."
The shooting occurred as a four-month operation by the Santa Paula Police Department and the DEA was wrapping up. Facing gang and drug problems that had spun out of control last year, Police Chief Bob Gonzales requested help from the DEA's Mobile Enforcement Team in January.
For the next four months, a team of gang and drug enforcement experts slept in local motels or commuted from Los Angeles while working with Santa Paula's 32-member Police Department.
The operation ended in May after 21 drug-related arrests and the seizure of several pounds of drugs and nearly a dozen guns.
The operation had gone relatively smoothly until the April 17 confrontation with Barron.
Authorities said Barron had well-known gang ties and was selling drugs out of his home at the time of the shooting.
Backed up by Santa Paula officers, two federal agents pulled up to the house about 7:50 p.m. as Barron stood in the yard with several family members and friends, Gonzales said.
The agents identified themselves immediately, Gonzales said. Barron pulled a handgun from his waistband and, instead of obeying an agent's order to drop the weapon, ran to the porch and pointed the pistol at the agents, the chief said.
"Mr. Barron pushed the issue and forced the [agents] to do what they did," Gonzales said. "The DEA was our guest and we take as much responsibility as our colleagues. I would prefer [Barron] be in the county jail instead of a hospital bed, but he created that situation."
Gonzales said he expected a claim against the city and its police department "because the trend is to sue."
An investigation by the DEA "showed that this agent was acting within the scope of his employment and dutifully and lawfully reacted in self-defense," said Jose Martinez, a special agent at the DEA's Los Angeles office.
Barron's mother, Cecilia, who witnessed the shooting, said that despite what Gonzales and DEA officials said, the truth of what happened has yet to come out.
"I am speechless right now," Cecilia Barron said when told of the findings of the DEA's inquiry. "I have so much I want to say but I can't, not right now. Our whole life has changed and it's been very hard. [The DEA] did wrong."
The federal government has six months to investigate any claims filed against it before a lawsuit can be filed, officials said.
Raskin said private investigators have interviewed several witnesses to the shooting, and a forensic expert will show that the bullet hit Barron as he was retreating.
Barron had a handgun stuffed in the waistband of his pants at the time of the shooting, Raskin said, but he never grabbed the gun as he tried to run. Instead, he said, agents planted the gun on the porch after realizing they used too much force.
According to the claim, Barron and a friend, Robert Garcia, were standing on the front lawn of the house when the agents, wearing masks, approached with guns drawn. Both men ran. Along with the bullet in the back of his neck, Barron sustained three gunshot wounds to the cheek, the claim states.
Raskin said the Santa Paula officers "had jurisdictional control and it was their responsibility to protect citizens. They almost killed an unarmed man. It's bad training."
Melissa Grisales, assistant to the city manager in Santa Paula, said the claim is being investigated by an adjuster, who has 30 days to return findings to the City Council before it votes on whether to accept or reject the claim.
County officials also have an adjuster investigating the claim, said Jackie Cohen, manager of claims litigation for the county.
Woman names city in police assault claim
By Cathleen Ferraro -- Bee Staff Writer
She is the seventh woman to allege sexual assault by Rosen, who was arrested May 6 and charged with multiple sex crimes while on duty. The woman is not one of the six victims identified in a court affidavit supporting the charges against the officer.
The 32-year-old woman, who requested anonymity, alleged that city and police officials were negligent in hiring, supervising and retaining Rosen.
According to the claim filed Tuesday with the City Clerk's Office, Rosen on Dec. 14, 2001, ordered the woman into his patrol car and forced her to engage in oral sex.
On other previous occasions, the claim alleges that Rosen stalked the woman and went to her house in the northern Sacramento area, where she would hide with the lights off because the officer sometimes flashed a police spotlight into her windows.
The claim also alleges that while on duty Rosen demanded that the woman come out of her home to speak with him, or would grab her hand and place it on his groin area.
In all instances, Rosen acted alone, said Sacramento attorney Anthony Perez, who is representing the woman.
She did not call the police to report the alleged attacks because Rosen had threatened her if she did, Perez said.
But in late December investigators from the Police Department's internal affairs division contacted the woman, Perez said, seeking information about Rosen. It was then that she made the disclosures.
Assistant City Attorney Bill Carnazzo said city officials are aware of the claim but would not comment on it.
"We saw it (Tuesday) and the city accepted delivery of the claim for itself, the police chief and the Police Department, but not for Mr. Rosen," Carnazzo said.
Police Chief Venegas and department spokesman Daniel Hahn would not comment Wednesday on the latest allegations against Rosen, 26.
Defense attorney Christopher W. Miller, who is representing Rosen, could not be reached for comment.
Rosen, a six-year veteran of the department, was charged earlier this month with 17 felony and misdemeanor counts, including reported attacks on five women and the rape of a 16-year-old girl in the back of his patrol car. Rosen has been accused of using his authority as an officer to intimidate and sexually assault women while working the graveyard shift in north Sacramento.
Since his arrest two and a half weeks ago, Rosen has been held in the Sacramento County Jail without bail. He has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 28.
If the city, Police Department, Venegas and Rosen do not respond to or reject the claims of Perez' client within 45 days, then she can file a civil lawsuit.
Perez said the woman intends to sue in Sacramento Superior Court for sexual assault and battery, and will allege the city and the Police Department are "vicariously liable" for Rosen's acts.
"At that time she can make claims for punitive damages against individuals and we believe officer Rosen and Police Department management may be individually liable for punitive damages, too," Perez said.
About the Writer
The Bee's Cathleen Ferraro can be reached at (916) 321-1043 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
He claims he was harassed after he alleged misuse of a police computer.
By Art Campos -- Bee Staff Writer
Neither Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia or Krahn's attorney, Dan Coyle, had seen the lawsuit as of Monday. However, on Friday both were ready to disregard the allegations."If it's close to his original complaint, then we know what's in (the lawsuit)," Urrutia said. "It's much ado about nothing.
"Coyle said he felt allegations of harassment against Krahn in a claim Brown filed with the city of Rocklin in October were without merit. "That's still our position," he said, referring to the lawsuit.The city did not respond to the October claim, paving the way for a lawsuit.Brown, 40, who was Rocklin's police officer of the year in 1999, alleges that Krahn used a department computer to run background checks on 58 individuals in 1998 and 1999.Among names run through the computer were other police officers, Krahn's ex-wife, relatives, friends, strangers and employers of the ex-wife, according to records provided by Brown.
Brown said the background checks allegedly made by Krahn did not appear to have anything to do with official police investigations -- a violation of department and state policies.Brown said telling his supervisors about the situation resulted in an internal police investigation of him rather than Krahn. "They said I failed to report it in a timely manner," said Brown, who now lives in Florida.Brown said he was harassed by Krahn after reporting the sergeant's computer activities.
He said Krahn interfered with his ability to park his car in an assigned
slot at the police station by parking so closely he couldn't use the space;
deprived him of overtime work opportunities; and disclosed confidential
personnel and medical information about him to other officers.Brown said
no investigation or corrective action was ever taken against Krahn, 57,
a 28-year veteran officer who retired in April 2001.About the Writer
The Bee's Art Campos can be reached at (916) 773-2825 or email@example.com .
$1 million suit alleges beating of inmate
A $1 million lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging Kern County sheriff's officers severely beat a man with a mental disability in the jail a year ago.
The suit, filed May 10 by Bakersfield attorney Kathleen Faulkner on behalf of James Jeffrey Owen, 37, also alleges officers are not adequately trained to deal with inmates that have mental problems.
A deputy, Lance Grimes, and three other detention officers or deputies allegedly without provocation hit, kicked and twisted the arm of Owen on May 14, 2001, in the booking area of the downtown jail, the suit says.
The officers allegedly stomped him with such force as to remove a metal plate from his collarbone, the suit says.
Owen has permanently lost the use of his left arm as a result of the injury, says the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno.
However, sheriff's investigation reports in a court file on the incident give no indication anything happened.
Owen was in jail on misdemeanor charges of loitering and public drunkenness. He was not represented by a defense attorney at either hearing, according to court records.
He was in court two days after the alleged beating to plead innocent to the charges. And he returned to court 16 days later and pleaded no contest to the charges.
The record of those appearances doesn't indicate any medical issues.
Jail officials said they could not comment on whether Owen sought medical attention for this incident during the 20 days he was in the jail.
He did seek medical treatment in prison, where he went for a parole violation after his jail term was finished, attorney Faulkner said.
The lawsuit alleges Owen's injuries were compounded because the jail staff was deliberately indifferent to obtaining medical care for him.
Sheriff's officials can't comment on the specifics of the case, but all inmates have to do is to ask for medical care and they will be referred to a nurse, Cmdr. Don Allen said.
Even if inmates don't ask, officers refer inmates to a nurse or hospital care if they see an injury, Allen said.
So far this year, there have been 108,000 referrals for medical care from inmates, nurses at Kern Medical Center said.
That's everything from a scrape to a serious medical problem, the nurses said.
The Lerdo and downtown jails hold about 2,800 inmates.
A complaint alleging brutality was filed on Owen's behalf with the Sheriff's Department, Cmdr. Brad Wilbert confirmed.
The investigation remains pending because Owen won't talk to investigators about what happened or who was involved, Wilbert said.
And a review of four felony cases among 15 criminal cases filed against Owen since 1989 shows virtually no indication Owen has a mental problem.
Owen's criminal history includes drug, theft, forgery and alcohol offenses.
Defendants with mental problems typically have a motion to declare them mentally incompetent to stand trial, but no such motion could be found in the felony or several of Owen's misdemeanor cases.
Once in 1999 a defense attorney asked for a confidential psychiatric examination of Owen because she thought he had a mental disorder. But seven days later he pleaded no contest to felony theft and no mental defense was offered.
Transcripts of sentencing hearings in the court file indicate Owen gave appropriate answers to questions by judges about his rights.
Owen has a mental disability for which he is receiving Social Security income, Faulkner said.
He's been diagnosed as bipolar, the lawsuit says.
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning, according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
It affects 2.3 million adult Americans, or 1.2 percent of the population. Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months, the alliance reported.
Sheriff deputies and detention officers are trained to deal with suspects with mental problems, Assistant Sheriff Mike LeFave said.
Psychiatric technicians are among the staff in the jail, he said.
The lawsuit names as defendants Kern County, Sheriff Carl Sparks, Grimes,
the Board of Supervisors and up to 100 unnamed people.
Parents of school shooter who killed self in jail sue San Diego County
Friday, May 10, 2002
(05-10) 00:17 PDT SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The parents of a teen-ager who wounded five people at his school have filed a $10 million wrongful death claim against the county, alleging jail officials failed to prevent their son from committing suicide.
Jason Hoffman, 18, hanged himself with a shredded bedsheet in the downtown jail Oct. 29, a month after he pleaded guilty to premeditated attempted murder and assault, and about a week before he was scheduled to be sentenced. He faced 27 years to life in prison for taking a shotgun into El Cajon's Granite Hills High School on March 22, 2001 and opening fire, wounding three students and two teachers.
A police officer shot him, wounding him in the buttocks and fracturing his jaw. The teen's parents, Ralph Hoffman and Denise Marquez, filed the claim -- the first step toward bringing a lawsuit -- against the county and its sheriff's department April 26. The county has 45 days to respond to the claim, which is under review. The family expects to file a lawsuit alleging wrongful death and civil-rights violations, said Harry Schenk, an attorney for the family.
The claim alleges jail officials knew Hoffman was suicidal -- and even placed him on suicide watch for a time -- but failed to keep him from killing himself. A medical examiner's report after Hoffman's suicide said he had made "multiple threats and attempts at suicide, most of which involved making a noose out of bed linens to hang himself." Authorities said Hoffman was depressed before the shooting. He told a probation officer that he opened fire at the school because he wanted to commit "suicide by cop."
Los Angeles to appeal $1 million judgment in man's death
Thursday, May 9, 2002
(05-09) 22:58 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) -- City officials say they will appeal a judgment of more than $1 million awarded to the family of a man who died from a fall after police handcuffed him. Anthony Eady, 52, a disabled Army veteran, hit his head and suffered brain damage when he fell with his hands cuffed behind his back on a South Los Angeles street in August 2000. He died three days later.
Eady, who had a blood-alcohol content more than five times the drunk-driving limit, had been arrested for investigation of drug possession, although no drugs were found. On Wednesday, a Superior Court jury awarded Eady's son, Amar Eady, $669,100, and his daughter, Rashidah Thomas-Eady, $350,000 for economic damages and pain and suffering. "This was a very difficult case to try," Deputy City Attorney Richard M. Arias said Thursday. "We had two innocent plaintiffs, and their father was dead."
The lawyer for Eady's children, Randy McMurray, said the officer involved, Jeffrey Wilson, may have caused the fall by shoving Eady in the back. Forensic evidence showed that Eady suffered a substantial blow to the back, but Arias said there was no evidence that Eady had been hit with a baton or kicked. McMurray said the city had offered a $100,000 settlement, but he had demanded at least $750,000.
May 3, 2002
IN BRIEF / WEST HILLS
From Times Staff Reports
Susan and Jeffrey Markowitz of West Hills will be paid nearly $350,000 in settlements from the parents of their son's alleged killers and others who they say failed to save his life, court documents show. A total of 14 defendants, including the Los Angeles Police Department, contributed to the deal, according to the documents.
Nicholas Markowitz, 15, was kidnapped Aug. 6, 2000, and shot two days later at a campsite near Santa Barbara, allegedly because his half-brother owed a drug debt.
The lawsuit claimed that the owners of homes where Nicholas was held and of cars used to transport him were negligent for failing to help their son.
R.E. Graswich: Deputy sues hospital after prisoner gets her medical
By R.E. Graswich -- Bee Staff Writer
Inside dope: A Sacramento County sheriff's deputy is wondering how her medical records wound up in the hands of a prisoner at the Sacramento County jail. The deputy is suing Mercy Healthcare of Sacramento, saying her medical confidentiality was violated. "We believe this was a major foul-up by several people involved with Mercy San Juan Hospital," said Klaus Kolb, a lawyer representing the deputy.
The story began in July 2000, when the deputy encountered a suspect named Eric Bell. Bell assaulted the deputy with a deadly weapon and went to jail. The deputy ended up at Mercy San Juan. In April 2001, Bell was frisked for a court appearance. The lawsuit says jailers found him with an envelope containing the deputy's medical records, Social Security number, home phone number, date of birth, marital status, medical card number, physical condition and diagnosis and even "her mother's name."
The records were released under subpoena, Kolb said, but he contends the documents were supposed to be delivered to a court clerk -- not given to Bell. Mercy Healthcare spokeswoman Jill Dryer said, "We are investigating the matter." The deputy is back on duty. Bell is doing state prison time near Tracy for the assault, presumably without access to private records. ...
Sheriff's department workers' claims reach record level
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
(02-19) 01:34 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Sheriff's Department is coping with a record $86 million in workers' compensation claims even after some of its deputies received benefits for off-duty injuries. Over the past six years, the department's workers' compensation costs have soared 119 percent, from $39 million during the 1996-97 fiscal year to $86 million this fiscal year. The department also faces a workforce shortage, with 700 of 16,311 employees off the job on workers' compensation claims on any given day.
County officials have issued reports that reveal deputies earned benefits for injuries they received while they weren't on the job. The reports show that some injuries such as skydiving, rodeo events and off-road vehicle racing were the reasons why the deputies were sidelined. Other county agencies are facing similar problems. Workers' compensation costs have risen 65 percent in the past five years to a record $242 million in 2001.
Sheriff Lee Baca's solution is to hire someone who can work closely with the department while reviewing the books. "I'll hire the contract providers through my department, but we'll house them in my department so we can be in close proximity to how they evaluate each case," Baca said. But some watchdog groups wonder if Baca can achieve his goals. "Certainly, if he is coming into the process trying to crack down on fraud, we would support that," said John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "But the proof is whether that can be accomplished or not."
Baca, who is running for re-election next month, said the rising workers' compensation costs contributed to a $25 million shortfall in the department's budget last year. Two of his employees who are contesting him in the March 5 election have criticized Baca for purchasing a $2.4 million plane to ferry investigators around the state and mismanaging the budget.
White Inglewood police officer awarded $550,000 in reverse discrimination case
LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent Friday, April 19, 2002
(04-19) 04:34 PDT (AP) -- Eds.: PMs.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A police officer who says he was passed over for promotion by the predominantly black city of Inglewood because he is white was awarded nearly $550,000 in a reverse discrimination lawsuit. Nine members of the 12-person jury found that race was a substantial factor in Lt. Ron Wood losing out on the promotion to Hamptron Cantrell, who is black. Although three jurors concluded race was not a factor, they agreed with the majority that Wood should be awarded $34,000 in lost wages, $440,762 in future lost wages and $75,000 for emotional distress.
Verdicts do not have to be unanimous in civil trials. Wood, 55, said outside court he felt the award was fair, adding the lawsuit allowed him to get his message across. "I'm not the most popular guy in Inglewood right now," he said. "But there were things that needed to be said." Jury foreman Richard Elliott said the panel felt the decision to elevate Cantrell instead of Wood was political and that race and politics were intertwined in the suburban city southwest of Los Angeles, which has a large black population and a predominantly black City Council. The council gave Cantrell the job. "I think we were concerned that the chief didn't make the choice, that the City Council jumped into it and made it political," Elliott said.
"Race is a factor in politics -- in Inglewood, in Los Angeles, everywhere." As for Cantrell, he said, "He was certainly well-qualified. But he was a climber, selling himself. He's a guy who's got an agenda. I don't think we were as impressed with him as he was with himself." The only black member of the jury, Jeannie Matthews, said outside court that she did not vote with the majority because she didn't feel race was a factor in Wood being passed over. But she said there wasn't sufficient evidence to explain why he was passed over, and she was "confused" by Police Chief Ronald Banks' decision to let the City Council decide who would be promoted. She spoke highly of Cantrell. "The thing I respected about him is he told the truth," she said. "He said this was something he wanted. He knew what they expected and he went for it."
Other jurors who voted with Matthews were an Asian man and a white woman. Attorney Nelson Atkins, who represented the city, complained that testimony from disgruntled city employees may have influenced the jury. Wood's attorney, Gregory Smith, said he was satisfied with the verdict. Although the amount awarded was only half what Wood sought, Smith said it is "extremely rare" to prevail in a reverse discrimination suit and that money wasn't the main issue anyway. "All that Lt. Wood ever wanted was to be vindicated in his belief that he was a victim of reverse discrimination," Smith said.
Ex-INS chief's lawsuit settled
Lionel Nurse accepts a new government offer of about $270,000, plus lawyer's fees.
By Edgar Sanchez -- Bee Staff Writer
Lionel Nurse, the former Sacramento chief of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who accused his bosses of racism and unfairly demoting him, thought he had a settlement that would allow him to retire and collect more than $1.1 million.
Officials in the U.S. attorney's office denied agreeing to that amount. But the oral agreement negotiated a year ago wasn't implemented because it was never put in writing, the government said last week.
Under a new settlement, Nurse, 55, will retire from the INS' Border Patrol in Sacramento in May and collect about $270,000 over the next nine years. Another $35,000 will be paid to his attorney, Howard Moore Jr.
The first deal was reached in February 2001, while a San Francisco federal jury deliberated Nurse's wrongful-demotion suit against the INS. The panel, it turned out, was divided, with only one of the eight jurors believing Nurse had been wronged.
In the new settlement signed a few weeks ago, the INS denied any wrongdoing against Nurse, who headed the Sacramento INS for a decade until his transfer in 1998.
Matthew Jacobs, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco, said the payments to Nurse will "compensate him for the retirement he would have gotten if he had worked (with INS) until he was 65."
The cash will be in addition to his retirement benefits.
Besides saying that the original settlement was oral, not written, Jacobs declined comment as to why it wasn't honored.
Nurse and Moore declined to be interviewed.
Any case requiring a new settlement to be resolved is highly unusual, said Julie Davies, a tort and civil rights professor at McGeorge School of Law.
Davies, who wasn't part of the Nurse case, said legal scholars can only speculate why Nurse won't receive $1.1 million. For example, she said, someone in the government may have balked at such a large payout.
"It's possible that the amount originally discussed wasn't acceptable to the party who was to sign on the dotted line," Davies said.
INS spokeswoman Sharon Rummery referred questions to the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco.
Nurse, a 31-year INS employee and a black native of Panama, became chief of the Sacramento INS in 1987, heading a staff that serves 23 Northern California counties. He sued after his transfer to the Border Patrol, saying it was a demotion based on racism.
At the trial, both sides agreed that Nurse for years received positive reviews from his white bosses in INS's San Francisco district office.
But in 1997, his performance review plunged to minimally satisfactory. That year, Nurse ignored new rules for processing citizenship applications, government lawyers said.
In August 1998, Nurse was removed as officer in charge by Thomas Schiltgen, then director of the INS' San Francisco district office. At the Border Patrol, Nurse continued to draw his annual salary of $110,000.
Six weeks later, Nurse revealed that he was being investigated by a federal grand jury in Sacramento for corruption. In interviews with The Bee, two persons who testified before the grand jury confirmed the probe.
Nurse insisted he had done nothing wrong. He said the grand jury action was connected to a September 1998 burglary of his Natomas home -- which he said was part of an attempt by his bosses to "terrorize" him into retiring from INS.
INS officials blasted Nurse for his "reckless accusations." Nurse sued the INS in 1999.
During trial, the jury heard about the burglary of his home but not about the grand jury probe. Jurors were on their third day of deliberations when the original settlement was reached.
By then, the jurors were firm in their positions. Seven believed that Schiltgen was a difficult boss, but had done nothing illegal in demoting Nurse. One believed the bosses had violated fair-treatment laws.
Outside court after the jury was dismissed, Nurse's attorney said the INS had agreed to pay more than $1.1 million, plus legal fees, to settle the suit. Moore said Nurse was to retire from the Border Patrol in a few months, then draw his full pay of $110,000 a year until June 2011.
Government attorneys declined to comment about the first settlement, referring questions to public information officers who said they had no information.
The next day, officials in the U.S. attorney's office disputed The Bee's report. The pact, they said, was for roughly $350,000, not $1.1 million.
Moore said The Bee's report was "perfectly accurate."
The U.S. attorney's office vowed to produce documents showing the "correct numbers." The Bee received only a cassette tape supposedly containing a recording of the settlement talks. The tape was blank.
Last week, Jacobs said the earlier settlement was "irrelevant," no matter what numbers it contained.
"That settlement is not in effect," he said.
About the Writer
The Bee's Edgar Sanchez can be reached at (916) 321-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. Bee Legal Affairs Writer Claire Cooper contributed to this report.
County settles over arrestee injury
The Sheriff's Department expresses surprise and denies wrongdoing.
By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer
Sacramento County has agreed to pay $147,500 to a man whose arm was broken while he was in Sheriff's Department custody.
Michael P. Hay was a 21-year-old college student with no criminal record when he was arrested for public intoxication.
He was never charged with a crime, but about 10 hours after being booked he left the jail with a fractured right forearm.
Hay's version of the events, as related by attorney Gary Gorski in an interview, is dramatically different from the deputies' rendition, according to Capt. John McGinness in an interview.
Gorski said his client's arm was broken while he was being "brutalized" by deputies in the jail. He said the jail's videotaping system captured the incident.
McGinness said "there is a question as to when Mr. Hay's arm was actually broken."
He said an independent witness -- a security officer at Hay's apartment complex -- saw Hay jumping wildly about on the rigid plastic rear seat of a patrol car in an ultimately successful attempt to get his cuffed hands in front of him.
"It was the kind of thing that could have caused an injury," McGinness said. "He was significantly impaired by virtue of his intoxication."
The videotape does not show excessive force at the jail, and an internal investigation found no cause for discipline in connection with officers' interactions with Hay, McGinness said.
"The report is completed and on its way to the undersheriff for the final signature," he added.
As for the settlement, McGinness expressed surprise when he learned of it Monday. On Tuesday, the captain said he was told it was "strictly a business decision" made by the county.
Two days before Christmas 2000, Deputy Rebecca Eubanks responded to a complaint about loud music coming from Hay's La Riviera Drive apartment.
Gorski said Hay, who was a student at California State University, Sacramento, promised Eubanks he would keep the noise down, and as she left, Hay said, "You're kinda cute. Can I get your phone number?" A short time later, Deputy Robert Book knocked on Hay's door and threatened to arrest him if he didn't apologize for "disrespecting a police officer," said Gorski.
Hay refused to comply, insisting he had done nothing wrong. Book then handcuffed and arrested Hay while he was "in his legal residence with a friend," Gorski said.
Once they were in the patrol car, according to Gorski, the deputy again gave Hay an opportunity to apologize, but he wouldn't do it.
McGinnis said Hay's remark to Eubanks was never an issue. She left the area before Book arrived in response to the same noise complaint, and there was no communication between the two deputies, the captain said. Book arrested a drunken Hay when he stepped out of the apartment, he said.
According to Gorski, the videotape from the jail shows three deputies -- Charles Meeks, Santos Ramos and Tom McCuue -- smashing Hay into a wall and lifting him off the floor. At that point, one of the deputies is heard to say, "Oh, oh. What was that?" and they looked at his right arm, Gorski said. "They let him down and disappeared."
Hay, described by Gorski as "frail," complained of pain in the arm but was not treated in jail.
The tape shows no improper action by the deputies, McGinness said.
"They had him under control and were searching him," the captain said. "They heard something -- a 'pop,' as they described it -- and stopped to check him out. He didn't seem to be in any pain."
About the Writer
The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or email@example.com
Sheriff's department workers' claims reach record level
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
(02-19) 01:34 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Sheriff's Department is coping with a record $86 million in workers' compensation claims even after some of its deputies received benefits for off-duty injuries.
Over the past six years, the department's workers' compensation costs have soared 119 percent, from $39 million during the 1996-97 fiscal year to $86 million this fiscal year. The department also faces a workforce shortage, with 700 of 16,311 employees off the job on workers' compensation claims on any given day. County officials have issued reports that reveal deputies earned benefits for injuries they received while they weren't on the job. The reports show that some injuries such as skydiving, rodeo events and off-road vehicle racing were the reasons why the deputies were sidelined.
Other county agencies are facing similar problems. Workers' compensation costs have risen 65 percent in the past five years to a record $242 million in 2001. Sheriff Lee Baca's solution is to hire someone who can work closely with the department while reviewing the books. "I'll hire the contract providers through my department, but we'll house them in my department so we can be in close proximity to how they evaluate each case," Baca said. But some watchdog groups wonder if Baca can achieve his goals. "
Certainly, if he is coming into the process trying to crack down on fraud, we would support that," said John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "But the proof is whether that can be accomplished or not." Baca, who is running for re-election next month, said the rising workers' compensation costs contributed to a $25 million shortfall in the department's budget last year. Two of his employees who are contesting him in the March 5 election have criticized Baca for purchasing a $2.4 million plane to ferry investigators around the state and mismanaging the budget
Lawsuit in deadly crash settled
By Ramon Coronado, Bee Staff Writer
A lawsuit filed after a fatal 1998 accident involving a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department transport van has been settled out of court for $1.3 million.
The 1999 suit, initially filed against Sacramento County by one of two inmates injured in the crash, later mushroomed to include more than a dozen other defendants and plaintiffs represented by 19 law firms.
Among the other defendants were various trucking firms, truck repair companies, an emergency freeway service, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol."Ten things had to go wrong at the same time in order for this accident to have happened the way it did," said Sacramento attorney Donald Masuda, who represented the driver of the sheriff's van, Deputy Susan Rosenberg, 53.
According to the settlement, $750,000 went to the family of Deputy Sandra Larson, 48, who was killed in the crash. Inmate James Arthur Columbus Jr., 44, who suffered massive facial injuries, was paid $400,000, said the agreement finalized late last month.Larson, mother of a 16-year-old daughter and 13 year-old son, was active in the county deputy association for 18 years. Columbus is serving 16 years and four months in Folsom Prison for multiple robbery counts.
On Dec. 8, 1998, Rosenberg was returning from Soledad correctional facility to the Sacramento County jail about 3:30 p.m., transporting Columbus and inmate Robert William Fowler, 55, a convicted child molester.Rosenberg was northbound on Interstate 5 and tried to take the J Street exit. The disabled big-rig was parked in a "gore point," where an onramp merges into the primary lanes of a freeway.Larson, a 24-year sheriff's veteran, was in the front passenger seat when the van smashed into the rear of the stalled tractor-trailer rig. Larson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rosenberg suffered multiple fractures and a cut arm. She received $115,000 in the settlement.Columbus and Fowler, who were shackled, were thrown into a metal grate dividing the front and rear of the van.Fowler suffered a broken sternum, a sprained ankle and multiple soft tissue injuries. Early in the suit, Sacramento County paid Fowler $50,000, and he later received another $20,000 from the other defendants.Jerry D. Harter and Milton W. Zamboni, two mechanics working on the disabled big-rig, had minor injuries from the crash. Harter received $7,500. Zamboni was paid $12,500.Michael R. Loewen, an attorney for Columbus and Fowler, said the lawsuit mushroomed as more parties were found to be potentially liable, and some plaintiffs learned they were precluded from suing their employers under California law.
According to court records, the tractor-trailer rig had experienced chronic mechanical difficulties the day before the accident. It was brought in for repairs but kept overheating.When the big-rig broke down, the driver turned on the emergency flashers and left to call for help. The CHP was notified by a freeway service patrol unit that several cars had almost struck the disabled truck, but a CHP officer told his dispatcher that it wasn't a hazard.Safety cones were placed alongside the truck to warn motorists but then were removed.Rosenberg was accused of making an unsafe lane change, but the District Attorney's Office cleared her, saying she acted no differently from how "any reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances."
|||The Bee's Ramon Coronado can be reached at (916) 321-1191 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
California and the West;
State Agrees to Pay $2.2 Million to Inmate Shot at Corcoran Prison
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; May 16, 1999; MARK ARAX;MARK GLADSTONE;
Buy Full Text at Los Angeles Times
Tulumis said the May 1993 fight was instigated by two officers ...
4 ex-gang members file $10 million claims over cop-killing case
The San Diego Union - Tribune; San Diego, Calif.; Feb 16, 2001; J. Harry
Butler, Cunningham, Bradshaw and Standard were convicted of murder and conspiracy in 1994. Winters pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released from prison in the mid-1990s. Jordan was acquitted.
[Paul Pfingst] said yesterday: "They pleaded guilty and guilty crooks
don't get money. We have full prosecutorial immunity. These men pleaded
guilty to voluntary manslaughter."
Woman sues over prosecution
Courts $25 million lawsuit alleges O.C. tried to frame her for murder in her baby's shooting death, for which she was acquitted.
Law protecting police called unconstitutional
By STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer e-mail:
Tuesday August 07, 2001, 11:51:16 PM
A challenge will be made Friday to a Taft law that gives police officers
The state law, enacted in 1995 in the aftermath of the March 1991 Rodney
Defense attorney Kyle Humphrey is contending in a 15-page legal brief
Deputy District Attorney David Ingrum, citing an appellate case on the
The incident in the Taft case involves the California Highway Patrol
Her attorney filed a demurrer to the complaint alleging that the law
The events in the matter began Jan. 4 when the Tejon station of the
Brown was granted a hearing before Sgt. Lew Hall in an attempt to have
She contended to the Internal Affairs section of the CHP that Hall was
The CHP contends that a tape recording of the hearing shows that Hall
Humphrey contended in his brief, "There is no compelling, substantial
The brief adds that a benefit to tossing out the law would be to open
Ingrum said that police departments did open up their communication
Los Angeles police officers were accused of brutality in the videotaped
Ingrum defended the charges against Brown, saying that "she was trying
Published on January 10, 2001,
The Sacramento BeeCY
A 'concubine' case is settled for $165,000
The state has agreed to pay $165,000 to resolve the lawsuit of a California Youth Authority ward who claims she was turned into the "personal concubine" of a teacher at the CYA's Ventura School in Camarillo.
The ward's Sacramento attorney, Stewart Katz, said the settlement was
reached Monday.CYA spokeswoman Sarah Ludeman said Tuesday that the agency
would have no comment about the settlement.After the details of the woman's
ordeal emerged, a Humboldt County. . .
City May Settle Lawsuit Over Police Shooting;
Courts: Council must approve payment to man wounded by an LAPD officer who stormed his home.
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Nov 28, 2001; SCOTT GLOVER;MATT LAIT;
Later, [Rodell R. Fick] stated in court and in sworn declarations that
he was unaware ...
7 Reporters Settle Suit Over LAPD;
Courts: They said they were assaulted by police who broke up a protest at the Democratic National Convention.
[Home Edition] JILL LEOVY; The Los Angeles Times; Nov 30, 2001; Record
edition; pg. B.4
Suit filed in suspect's death
The 26-year-old man was killed by SWAT deputies as he fled.
Published on August 14, 2001, Page B1, Article 4 of 24 found, 980 words.The
Jeffrey Jacob Scott was killed by Special Weapons and Tactics sharpshooters
Officers had what they considered to be reliable information that the
But the suit, filed Friday in Sacramento federal court
Widow files suit in police shooting
Published on March 10, 2001, Page B3, Article 10 of 24 found, 427 words.The
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and alleges the officers
Once having shot him, the officers failed to timely "summon the emergency
Lawsuit looms for CHP in case of man who fell from I-5 bridge
Published on October 1, 2001, Sacramento Bee
Tangled web: The California Highway Patrol had been told that someone was hanging from an Interstate 5 bridge rail near Discovery Park. But A.J. Jelks wasn't found until about 20 hours later.
By then he had fallen 60 feet. And by then he was dead. "I will be suing
the CHP," said Sacramento attorney Don Masuda, who represents Jelks' parents,
Julie and John Jelks. Computer messages between CHP dispatchers and officers
make reference to a "male hanging from rail" in. . .
Plaintiffs say Davis exceeded his power by weakening a bill.
Published on November 2, 2001, Sacramento Bee
Civil rights groups backed by the state's top lawmakers won a stay Thursday blocking distribution of almost $3 million in budget funds to help local police collect data on racial profiling of motorists.
The state Court of Appeal ordered briefs by the end of this month on whether the governor can weaken substantive legislation in the budget act, rather than just reduce the funding level.
In seeking the stay, the groups asked the court to rule that Gov. Gray
Davis. . .
Teen's parents seek $10,000 in false-arrest claim
Published on July 21, 2001,
.A teenager's parents are seeking $10,000 from the city in a claim protesting their son's arrest four months ago for allegedly threatening to shoot a gun off at Hughson High School.
The March 14 scare resulted in most of Hughson's 814 high school students
leaving the campus by noon.The boy's father said his 17-year-old son was
falsely arrested March 16, embarrassed and emotionally scarred. The City
Council rejected the claim earlier this month. Now the. . .
DA named defendant in pot case
Action seeks protection for medical users
Photo by: Lucas MobleyPOT SUIT:
Surrounded by medical marijuana users, Oakland attorney William Simpich answers reporters' questions Monday outside the Shasta County Courthouse after adding District Attorney McGregor Scott to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against sheriff's deputies.
A medical marijuana patient's wrongful arrest lawsuit against Shasta County, two sheriff's deputies and a jail doctor was amended Monday to add District Attorney McGregor Scott as a defendant.At the same time, the suit was expanded to become a class-action suit on behalf of all the county's taxpayers and medical marijuana users.
The new action asks the court to forbid criminal prosecution or other sanctions for possession or cultivation of marijuana unless it is determined that the suspect is not a medical marijuana user or caregiver."
We're not asking for money. We're asking for justice from law enforcement and an end to the waste" caused by prosecuting medical marijuana patients, said Oakland attorney William Simpich, who filed the original suit in February.Simpich represents Richard and Kim Levin of Redding, who were arrested in 1998 after deputies peeked over their back fence and allegedly saw marijuana plants growing in their yard.
Charges against Kim Levin, 35, later were dropped. Richard Levin, 50, who has a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana to ease back and other medical problems, was acquitted in December of growing marijuana for sale.
The February Shasta County Superior Court lawsuit seeks $25,000 for the Levins, court costs and attorney's fees, but Simpich said the couple have spent much more than that to win their acquittal.In court documents Simpich filed Monday, he added allegations that Scott, whose office prosecuted Richard Levin, is violating the state Compassionate Use Act when Scott prosecutes medical marijuana patients at public expense and that he and the county are breaking the law by spending public money to prevent patients from "lawfully obtaining and using marijuana for medical purposes."
Scott said Monday afternoon that he had not yet been served with the complaint, which makes specific comment "difficult."But, he added, "an unfortunate part of this job is being named as a defendant in frivolous lawsuits."A section of the state Government Code grants prosecutors immunity from civil suits that arise from their decisions to prosecute criminal cases, Scott said."I fully expect that I and my office will be out of this (suit) at the earliest possible time," he said.Earlier Monday, Simpich amended another suit he filed against Tehama County and Sheriff Clay Parker on behalf of seven medical marijuana patients whose crops were confiscated and destroyed by drug agents last year.
In that case, two more plaintiffs, Frank and Daphne Kitchens, were added and the district attorney's office was added as a defendant. District Attorney Gregg Cohen was not named.Calling Shasta and Tehama counties "the problem counties" in California, Simpich suggested that law enforcement officers are using medical marijuana busts as "revenue enhancers" because they seize money, guns and other possessions from those arrested."
If somebody is selling marijuana that's the time to arrest them," Simpich
said. "They should not be harassing people who are getting their medicine.
Those are investigations that are needless." Reporter Maline Hazle can
be reached at 225-8266 or at email@example.com
Published on April 9, 2001,
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
FAMILY OF MAN KILLED AT SHELTER FILES SUIT
The family of a man killed at a downtown homeless shelter filed a lawsuit blaming security guards for his death.
The wrongful death suit, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims that three security guards beat and restrained Lionel Berry without cause and refused to release him when he complained of being unable to breathe.
It seeks unspecified damages.
Berry, 39, was subdued by guards Jan. 17 outside Weingart Center, one of the city's largest homeless agencies.
Published on February 16, 2000,
LITTLE JUSTICE IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
THE gruesome problems in the criminal justice system that have been overlooked for so many years are starting to burst into public view, and the system is breaking down in some parts of the country.
In Los Angeles an enormous scandal is unfolding. Dozens of people are known to have been framed by the police and some innocent people reportedly were shot. A criminal probe of the department has uncovered a wide range of offenses committed by police officers, including drug dealing, tampering
Published on July 28, 1999,
CORONER QUESTIONS SHOOTING BY OFFICERS HE SUPPORTS FAMILY OF MAN HIT BY 106 BULLETS
Michael William Arnold was hit by 106 bullets after he allegedly pointed an air pistol at law enforcement officers during a standoff 16 months ago.
The story faded after initial news reports, but the San Bernardino County coroner's participation in lawsuits filed by the family recently renewed interest in the case.
Sheriff, California Highway Patrol and Hawthorne police bullets struck
the 39-year-old man seven times in the head and neck, 50 times in the torso
and dozens of times. . .
JAILED TUBERCULOSIS PATIENT FILES SUIT DEFENDANTS INCLUDE THE FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF ANDSEVERAL COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIALS.
JERRY BIER AND NZONG XIONG THE FRESNO BEE,
Published on November 23, 1999
Charging that no person should be ''forced to experience such emotional
pain,'' a team of lawyers has filed suit on behalf of a Laotian refugee
who was held in Fresno County Jail for 10 months for not taking her tuberculosis
medicine.The complaint on behalf of Hongkham Souvannarath, 51, charges
11 state and local officials with willful violation of civil rights, battery,
false arrest and imprisonment, fraud and deceit, and professional negligence.''We
are. . .
SENATOR QUESTIONS JOB TRANSFER
MIKE LEWIS BEE CAPITOL BUREAU,
A furious state senator demanded Friday that state prison officials
reverse their decision to transfer an ousted Corcoran assistant warden
to a similar job at another state prison.Sen. Richard Polanco, in a letter
to the governor, deemed ''outrageous'' a California Department of Corrections
placement of Bruce Farris in an administrative position at High Desert
State Prison in Susanville.Farris had been fired from Corcoran on grounds
of incompetence, neglect and. . .
SUIT SAYS CORCORAN ABUSED INMATES
JERRY BIER THE FRESNO BEE,
A former Corcoran State Prison doctor says he was fired after he complained
about the abusive treatment of inmates made to stand on hot concrete as
punishment.Dr. Jack Wilkinson filed suit in U.S. District Court in Fresno
against the California Department of Corrections and corrections officials
asking for financial damages and reinstatement as a physician and surgeon.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said officials had not
seen the suit and had no immediate. . .
EX-FRESNO STATE POLICE CHIEF PLEADS IN EMBEZZLING CASE * WILLIE SHELL FACES JAIL TIME, FINES AND RESTITUTION.
The Fresno Bee, Published on February 18, 1998,
Willie Shell, former chief of police at California State University
campuses in Fresno and Bakersfield, pleaded no contest Tuesday to felony
charges of embezzling public funds and misusing a confidential law enforcement
computer system.Shell admitted falsifying expense reports, which cost the
state more than $5,000, and using the state's law enforcement telecommunications
system to perform unauthorized background checks. The no-contest plea in
Kern County Superior Court amounts to. . .
FILM AIMS TO EXPOSE PRISON DEATHS * PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR HOPES CORCORAN FOOTAGE STIRS DEBATE, REFORM.
Jim Steinberg The Fresno Bee, Published on February 16, 1998,
Private investigator Tom Quinn of Fresno offers the public a new videotape
with sure-fire audience pleasers: hand-to-hand combat, bystanders ducking
for cover and criminals shot dead.One glaring complication may spoil the
fun. This action isn't staged. The dead really died - inside the Security
Housing Unit of Corcoran State Prison. The dead were SHU inmates. Quinn,
50, will show his film, "Maximum Security University," Thursday.Quinn's
tape is a compilation of. . .
Assembly settled harassment case
By Aurelio Rojas -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 5:25 a.m. PST Sunday, Jan. 20, 2002
The state Assembly paid $140,000 to settle a complaint by a staff member who alleged she was sexually harassed in connection with her job, The Bee has learned.
While the vast majority of her charges were directed at the woman's immediate supervisor, the complaint also contained an allegation of an incident involving Assemblyman Lou Papan.
The secret settlement, reached in May 2000, is the third to come to light since 1996 in which taxpayer money was awarded to women who accused a member of the Legislature of sexual harassment.
In the settlement, which The Bee obtained through the Legislative Open Records Act, the Assembly Rules Committee denied "admission of liability by the Assembly or that the Assembly acted wrongly."
Papan, D-Millbrae, said he does not recall meeting the alleged victim, Rebecca Miles. Miles, 43, worked for the Assembly from February 1997 until she resigned on May 18, 2000.
In a prepared statement, Miles said the experience "was a painful episode I wish to put behind me."
"What's distressing is that women today -- married or unmarried -- continue to be victimized in the workplace, and what's worse is there's no safe haven for reporting the abuse," she said. "Loosely written laws continue to be ignored, leaving women as though they're on the verge of being stoned for complaining. Most of these women really love their jobs and want to stay but can't. It's very, very sad."
Miles declined to comment further on the case. But in a complaint filed April 14, 2000, with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing she charged that Papan, now 73, harassed her at a charitable golf tournament attended by legislators in April 1999.
"While at the tournament, Assembly Lou Pappan (sic) sexually harassed (Miles) by relentlessly following her around and insisting she stand on top of a table and remove her sweater in front of other members and employees," says the complaint, which The Bee obtained under the California Public Records Act.
Miles alleged Papan was intoxicated and continued to "pursue" her until Assemblyman Mike Machado intervened and made him "discontinue his harassment."
Responding to the allegation, Papan said, "I don't recall any of that." But Machado, now a member of the state Senate, said he had a "vague recollection" of the incident and said that Papan had a "few cocktails" that day.
"The behavior of my colleague was inappropriate and I told him to stop and that we should leave," said Machado, D-Linden. "He was embarrassing her and bantering about her physique."
Machado said the incident was later discussed at a Rules Committee meeting.
Confronted by Papan during a telephone conference call in his office, Machado told Papan with a Bee reporter present: "I don't recall the severity of the accusation by Rebecca. But ... the behavior was getting to the point that it was inappropriate."
The brunt of Miles' charges focused on her supervisor in the Speaker's Office of Member Services, Luke Breit, who she said made repeated unsolicited sexual advances toward her.
On two occasions, she said, Breit tried to kiss her outside restaurants where she had met with him after work to discuss a pay raise.
He also pressured her to go with him and other employees to his home, where he forcibly put his arms around her and pleaded with her to stay until she pushed him away, according to the claim.
She also charged that on several occasions he paged her at home and asked her to go out on dates. At work, she alleged, he would call her into his office, shut the door and plead with her to go away with him for the weekend.
After she rebuked his advances, she said Breit began questioning her work product and threatened her with a negative job evaluation.
"Mr. Breit made it difficult if not impossible for (Miles) to perform her duties because Mr. Breit would continuously make sexually demeaning references," according to the complaint.
Breit declined to comment and referred all questions to Jon Waldie, the Rules Committee's chief administrative officer.
Waldie said a "thorough investigation" conducted by a private investigator hired by the committee concluded that Miles' allegations were groundless. But Papan -- who is completing his second stint in the Assembly, where he has served 20 years -- said he was not interviewed as part of the investigation.
Waldie said that's because the claim Miles filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing contained different allegations than the confidential complaint she filed with the Assembly.
"Our conclusion was basically that if we had gone to litigation, we would have defeated her," Waldie said. "But when you look at the cost of litigation versus the cost of settlement, ultimately it was decided to settle."
In her claim, Miles also said she was retaliated against, transferred and had her duties changed after she complained of the harassment.
She said Waldie ordered her transferred from her office in the Legislative Policy Unit to a small, windowless room in the Capitol that was extremely hot. Waldie said the Assembly routinely reassigns employees who make allegations against their bosses while their complaints are investigated. He denied the office was uncomfortable.
Breit has since been promoted to a $95,256-a-year job as Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg's press secretary. The speaker was chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee that approved Miles' settlement and was aware of her allegations, Waldie said.
Hertzberg said in a statement that the Assembly took "appropriate action" consistent with the findings of the investigation.
In the settlement agreement obtained by The Bee, through the Legislative Open Records Act, Miles is identified. But the names of the people she alleges harassed her and retaliated against her are not provided.
The Assembly also refused to release a copy of the complaint it received from Miles, citing a law that exempts from mandatory disclosure "all records of complaints to or investigations conducted by the Legislature."
"Rebecca has claimed emotional distress arising from alleged physical injuries she claimed to have suffered," the agreement states.
"The Assembly denies Rebecca's allegations and claims, but the parties agree that payment to Rebecca satisfies any such claims she has made or may make against the Assembly."
Despite a "zero tolerance" sexual harassment policy adopted by the Assembly a decade ago, the house continues to receive complaints.
During one three-year period in the 1990s, the Assembly paid nearly $630,000 defending and settling sexual harassment cases.
Among them was a 1997 agreement to pay $360,000 to settle charges brought by an Elk Grove woman against former Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, a Republican from Orange County, and his top aide.
The settlement was reached after a jury found that Conroy and his aide did not commit sexual harassment. But jurors did conclude that the defendants "negligently inflicted emotional distress" and the Assembly "failed to take all reasonable steps" to protect her from abuse.
Despite whispers of sexual harassment among its work force, the Senate escaped the negative publicity that dogged the Assembly in the 1990s.
But last year, The Bee reported that the Senate Rules Committee paid $117,000 in 1998 to settle a complaint by a staff member who alleged she was retaliated against after rebuffing the advances of Majority Leader Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles.
About the Writer
The Bee's Aurelio Rojas can be reached at (916) 326-5539 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pot smuggler awarded $400,000 over DEA gaffe
Sunday, January 20, 2002
(01-20) 15:42 PST PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The government has been ordered to pay $254,000 plus attorney's fees to a convicted marijuana smuggler because it failed to properly notify him it had seized the boat he used for smuggling.
The award is the market value of the 55-foot motorized sailboat once owned by Gary H. Marolf, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling marijuana from Thailand. The government sold the boat, dubbed the Asmara, at auction for just $100,000. Marolf's attorney, Shawn R. Perez, estimates the attorney's fees at $150,000.
"I held them to the letter of the law," Perez said. "This shows it doesn't matter who the litigants are. We should all be treated equally." The three-judge panel agreed unanimously that Marolf should get the boat money back, but was divided over the attorney's fees Thursday. After an Oct. 17 hearing in Pasadena, circuit Judges James R. Browning and Raymond C. Fisher found that the district court, out of sympathy for the government's position, "abused its discretion" by not awarding attorney's fees once it found the government had erred.
Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez dissented, writing that it was "quite enough ... (that) a drug smuggler gets $253,763.60 of his drug-related assets free and clear" simply because the government failed to file a forfeiture notice with Marolf within the five-year statute of limitations. "It is more than enough," Fernandez wrote, "to award him attorney's fees also, despite the fact that the government perpetrated no actual wrong upon him when it seized the Asmara and then failed to commence proper proceedings within five years."
The DEA seized the Asmara July 12, 1991, and arrested Marolf two months later for conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States. He was never sent the proper seizure letters