Police Lawsuits

June 11, 2005

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The city must pay $1 million after a jury found that police officers were partly responsible for the death of a mentally ill man who died as he resisted arrest for a disturbance at a fast-food restaurant four years ago.

City Attorney Rick Doyle said he was shocked by the amount of damages awarded Wednesday, and said the city will ask the court for a new trial or seek a reduction in damages.

"It's a huge number," Doyle said. "It's the largest number I've seen since I've been with the office. We believe the size is very excessive."

Kim Smith, the widow of William Smith, sued the city for wrongful death suit after her husband died during a scuffle on Sept. 25, 2001, that started with a disturbance at a McDonald's restaurant and eventually involved eight officers.

Kim Smith's attorney, Steven Jacobsen of Oakland, argued the officers ignored their training in handling Smith, 45, who police say weighed more than 300 pounds.

"This terrible tragedy raises awareness of the need for better police training in dealing with the mentally ill," Jacobsen said. An arrest for mental distress "should not turn into punishment and certainly should not end up in death."

LA may settle discrimination lawsuits filed by gay police officers 

Sunday, December 26, 2004 

(12-26) 07:29 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The city has tentatively agreed to pay $650,000 to settle lawsuits filed by two gay police officers who claim they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. 

Sgt. Robert Duncan, 42, would receive more than $200,000 to resolve claims his career was damaged after fellow officers discovered he was gay, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Officer Alan Weiner, 45, who said he was harassed while working as a training officer, would get about $450,000. 

"To me, it was very clear that Alan was singled out over a series of years because of his sexual orientation. That's wrong and it's also illegal," said Brad Gage, Weiner's attorney. "When a police department breaks the law, that's especially outrageous." 

Both settlements must be approved by the City Council. If ratified, the settlements would boost to nearly $3 million the city's payouts to eight gay officers. 

A Police Department spokesman declined to comment. 

The lawsuits followed a 1993 settlement under which the LAPD agreed to end discrimination against gays by recruiting in the gay community, instructing on topics related to sexual orientation, and banning disqualifying applicants for promotion because of sexual orientation. 

The agreement stemmed from a lawsuit filed by retired Sgt. Mitch Grobeson and two other officers who received a $770,000 settlement. 

Despite the 1993 agreement, 16 gay officers identified by a recent Times story claimed being openly gay threatened their careers. They said gay officers were prevented from working in specialized police units such as metro, SWAT, organized crime or anti-terrorism. 

In November, police Chief William J. Bratton said gay officers have been forced to sue to end discrimination. He said the department was working to address issues related to gay officers. 

"There are going to be bumps in the road, there are going to be curves and detours that we are going to have to take. But I think the most significant thing is that the journey has begun," he said. 

Duncan, who sued the city in August 2003, and Weiner both reached tentative agreements with the city earlier this month. 

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2004/12/26/state1029EST0008.DTL


Sat, Dec. 18, 2004 

City settles lawsuit over rape arrest

By Jessica Portner

Mercury News

The city of Palo Alto on Friday settled a federal lawsuit filed by a man arrested for a brutal nursing home rape who was later exonerated by DNA evidence.

Lawyers for Jorge Hernandez, 20, agreed to accept $75,000 to settle the case -- the second time this year that Palo Alto has paid out a cash settlement to someone claiming to be the victim of overzealous police.

In Hernandez's case, lawyers argued that police used make-believe evidence to manipulate the former Gunn High School student into admissions that led to his arrest.

Hernandez was arrested in July 2002 for an attack that outraged many: the rape and beating of a 94-year-old woman in the Palo Alto Commons by an attacker who slipped in through her unlocked door.

Hernandez -- at the time an 18-year-old department store salesman just out of high school -- was held on $1 million bail for suspicion of rape, sodomy and burglary. He faced life in prison.

Police homed in on Hernandez because he lived two blocks from the victim's assisted-living apartment and has an older brother named Edwin -- the name engraved on a ring torn off during the attack.

Hernandez's family members expressed shock at the charges and insisted police had the wrong man. Hernandez had no prior criminal record and dreamed of playing professional soccer.

When police arrested Hernandez, they falsely told him they had a videotape and other evidence linking him to the May 10, 2002, crime.

Hernandez told police he may have been at the scene but had no memory of the crime and said it didn't seem like something he would do. ``I was probably drinking when it happened,'' he said in a videotaped interview session, during which -- at the prodding of police -- he apologized for the attack.

He spent nearly a month in jail before DNA evidence on the rapist's jewelry and other items later cleared him. The crime is still unsolved.

Palo Alto Assistant City Attorney Bill Mayfield said Friday that investigators' tactics were legitimate and that witness statements -- not just Hernandez's admissions -- led police to suspect him.

Mayfield argued that the settlement was not an admission of improper procedure by police but was based on the potentially high cost of fighting a lawsuit.

``This was an acceptable balance of risk and cost, as it would have potentially gone on for one year or more,'' he said.

Randolph Daar, Hernandez's attorney, insisted that the settlement is a recognition that police acted improperly. He said Friday he and his client agreed to the settlement because they were concerned police would have been granted immunity from a judge and that the case would never have made it in front of a jury.

Crime experts say that while it's acceptable to deceive a suspect during an interrogation, police cross the legal line if they use trickery to press for a confession where there is no probable cause to believe a suspect committed a crime.

John Scott, another lawyer for Hernandez, suggested last month that police had planted false memories by presenting certain details of the crime scene to Hernandez in an earlier, un-taped interview at Hernandez's workplace.

Since Hernandez's arrest, Palo Alto police have changed their policy to require that all interrogations be videotaped.

The settlement with Hernandez comes less than 10 months after Palo Alto agreed to pay $250,000 to a man who alleged he was pulled from his parked car last year and assaulted by two police officers. A criminal case against those officers is scheduled to begin next month. In that settlement, as with Friday's, the city did not admit any wrongdoing.

Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson said the Hernandez deal was financially prudent.

``This is just an indication that it's cheaper to settle than to spend money on court or attorney costs,'' she said.

Palo Alto detective Natasha Powers, who conducted the videotaped interrogation of Hernandez, said she would have liked to have seen the case go to trial because she is confident investigators' methods would have been declared sound.

``It certainly isn't going to change how I do my job,'' she said.

Contact Jessica Portner at jportner@mercurynews.com  or (650) 688-7505 


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The city will pay nearly $200,000 in settlements to four people who alleged police misconduct, including a woman who said an on-duty officer tried to force her to perform oral sex.

The city admitted no wrongdoing and settled the federal civil rights lawsuits to avoid the risk of a harsher verdict at trial, City Attorney John Russo said in documents released Friday. The largest settlement was $95,000 for a 37-year-old Oakland woman. Griselvia Castaneda said she asked Officer Frank Morrow Jr. for help near Network Associates Coliseum in the predawn hours of May 12, 2001, after another officer had her car towed for vehicle code violations. She said that officer injured her left hand in the process.

Police jailers refused to process Castaneda because of the injured hand. She was then driven to a dirt road by Morrow and resisted the alleged assault before being taken back to jail, her suit claimed.

Lawyers for Morrow could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors later wrongfully charged her with being drunk in public, her attorneys said.

"This is as grotesque an act as I've ever heard of from a police officer," said Dennis Roberts, an attorney for Castaneda.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ordered Morrow, who remains on the force, to stay away from Castaneda.

In unrelated cases, the city agreed to pay $60,000 to a man who accused officers of punching him in the left eye; $25,000 to a man who said officers beat him, breaking his nose and chipping his teeth, while he was handcuffed during a car stop; and $13,000 to a man who said he was beaten and wrongfully arrested.


City settles suits in Rosen case

$207,500 goes to two women who say the former Sacramento cop assaulted them.

By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, November 25, 2004Get weekday updates of Sacramento Bee headlines and breaking news. Sign up here. 

The city of Sacramento has paid $207,500 to settle federal civil rights lawsuits filed by two alleged sexual assault victims of former Sacramento Police Officer Darryl Rosen, according to figures released by City Attorney Samuel Jackson.A $200,000 payment was made to a woman who claims she was raped by Rosen when she was 16 while being transported to Sacramento County's juvenile detention facility, according to a letter signed by Jackson's assistant and received by The Bee on Wednesday.Now 19 and awaiting trial on a burglary charge, the woman testified at Rosen's criminal trial earlier this year that he assaulted her in the back of his patrol car on June 29, 2001, and subjected her to two other sexual batteries.OAS_AD('Button20');The jury deadlocked 9-3 for conviction on the rape charge, which could have meant a lifetime in prison for Rosen. The two sexual batteries and a charge of threatening the teenager if she reported him were among the counts on which he was found guilty by a Sacramento Superior Court jury in July.Rosen, 29, was sentenced last month to nine years and eight months in prison on convictions of sexual battery, false imprisonment and assault by a peace officer involving four women, including the young woman who collected $200,000. Jurors found him not guilty on four charges relating to two of six alleged victims.At Rosen's sentencing, the 19-year-old wept and told the judge she has nightmares and doesn't trust men as a result of the attacks. She said she fears Rosen will come after her, as he threatened."I still believe when he is released, he still may search me out," she said.Another of Rosen's alleged victims was paid $7,500 by the city, according to the letter from Jackson's office.The city would not comment on the settlements, but the small amount of the second settlement is attributable to the woman's loss of credibility at the criminal trial.She was forced to admit she falsely alleged that, after Rosen was charged in 2002, another Sacramento police officer accosted her and warned that she "better drop the charges" against Rosen.The prosecutor, in his closing argument, urged the jury to disregard her as a witness, and jurors acquitted Rosen of sexually assaulting the woman in December 2001."After that, I thought it was best to get out while the getting was good," her attorney, Danny Brace Jr., said Wednesday of the civil settlement.Two other alleged victims of sexual attacks by Rosen while he was on duty in the city's north area have civil rights suits pending, one in federal court and the other in state court. Rosen was found guilty on charges relating to one of the women. The other woman was not involved in the criminal case.The women are not being named by The Bee because they are allegedly the victims of sexual assaults.The two settlement payments were made several weeks ago, but the city at first would not provide the amounts.Settlements of civil suits by municipalities are public records by law in California, but Jackson refused to respond to repeated requests for the financial terms of these settlements.Stephen Burns, assistant general counsel of the company that owns The Bee, wrote to Jackson last week requesting the information and citing the law.The letter received Wednesday from Jackson's office was in response to Burns' request.

About the writer:
The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or  dwalsh@sacbee.com


Riders' Cop Case Settlement Will Cost $10.9 Million
POSTED: 6:05 a.m. PST February 19, 2003 
UPDATED: 1:41 p.m. PST February 20, 2003 
OAKLAND, Calif. -- City officials have agreed to pay nearly $11 million and implement police reforms to settle civil rights lawsuits brought by more than 100 people who claimed they were victimized by a group of rogue police officers known as The Riders. While some reforms were in place before The Riders scandal broke, Oakland Police Chief Richard Word said Wednesday the policies will strengthen the department's supervision, training and internal affairs. 

"It creates an environment in which supervisors and managers know they're going to be held accountable," Word said. "These reforms will help us to become a more sophisticated (department.) It wasn't easy. We yelled and had words exchanged, but we worked this out." Officials agreed one of the main problems was The Riders were able to operate virtually unsupervised on the night shift in predominantly black West Oakland. Word stopped short of calling Riders-like conduct a systematic problem and said he made sure the new policies won't impede good police work. 

The lawsuits claimed the officers kidnapped and beat suspects in the summer of 2000. To settle the suit, Oakland will pay $10.9 million to 119 plaintiffs, who say the city and its police department either encouraged or ignored the abuse. "We had clients who really endured the unendurable ... and were patient all these years waiting for justice to be done," said plaintiffs' lawyer Jim Chanin, who, along with John Burris, represented the victims. 

Burris said they will receive damages ranging from $10,000 to more than $500,000, depending on how much time they spent in jail, whether they lost their jobs or were physically hurt. Some of the changes proposed for the department include establishing a hotline to report police abuse, as well as improving citizen access and internal affairs investigations. 

An outside monitor will be named in the next two months to a five-year term to ensure that the reforms, which will cost the department $2 million a year, are implemented. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson approved the settlement in the civil cases Jan. 22 after 18 months of negotiations. The settlement was under seal until Tuesday night. "We did not bury our heads in the sand," City Attorney John Russo said. 

"We acknowledged freely our faults, and we've worked arm in arm toward fixing the problem rather than hiding from or denying the problem." Russo said the city could have faced much higher costs if the cases had gone to trial, considering the victims spent a total of more than 25 years imprisoned on false charges. Settling the suit also prevents the U.S. Justice Department from imposing changes on the police department through a consent decree, which it has done in other cities such as Los Angeles facing a police misconduct scandal, Russo said.

After paying attorneys, the plaintiffs will split about $7 million. The settlement ends nearly all civil legal actions brought in connection with the Riders case. Former officers Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag, 37, Jude Siapno, 34, and Matthew Hornung, 31, are on trial on charges they beat suspects and falsified police reports. The alleged ringleader, Frank Vazquez, fled to escape prosecution. The Riders, who have all been fired, were turned in by a rookie officer, Keith Batt, who has testified against them. Both police and city officials refused to comment on the ongoing trial in Alameda County Superior Court, except to say the settlement would have no effect on it. 

Oakland settles 'Riders' suits 
Record $10.5 million payout -- police reforms required 
Janine DeFao, Chronicle Staff Writer 
Wednesday, February 19, 2003 
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback 

URL:  http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/02/19/MN57667.DTL

In by far the largest legal settlement in Oakland municipal history, plaintiffs who claimed they were victimized by a group of rogue cops known as "the Riders" will share $10.5 million in damages, The Chronicle has learned. 

The settlement also will bring major changes in how the police department operates and deals with the public, officials will announce today at a City Hall news conference. 

The payout will go to 119 plaintiffs who filed federal civil rights lawsuits claiming four police officers kidnapped, beat and planted drugs on them during the summer of 2000. The plaintiffs alleged that the Oakland Police Department either encouraged or turned a blind eye to the abuse. 

In response, the department will institute numerous changes -- from establishing a 24-hour hot line to report police abuse to requiring that supervisors respond to felony, drug and other arrests -- outlined in a 59-page settlement document obtained by The Chronicle. 

An outside monitor, to be named within two months, will be appointed for five years to ensure that the changes are implemented. 

The settlement ends nearly all the civil litigation in connection with Oakland's largest police misconduct scandal in decades. 

Three of the officers, Matthew Hornung, 31, Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag, 37, and Jude Siapno, 34, are on trial on criminal charges including assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and filing false police reports. Alleged ringleader Francisco "Choker" Vazquez, 46, is a fugitive believed to have fled to Mexico. All four have been fired. 

U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson approved the settlement in the civil cases Jan. 22 after 18 months of negotiations, but the settlement was under seal until Tuesday night. 

"We did not bury our heads in the sand. We acknowledged freely our faults, and we've worked arm in arm toward fixing the problem rather than hiding from or denying the problem," said City Attorney John Russo. 

John Burris, the Oakland attorney representing the plaintiffs with Berkeley lawyer Jim Chanin, called the settlement historic. 

"The compensation for the clients was important, but to me, from the outset, 

it was extraordinarily important to change the way things are done" in the Oakland Police Department, he said. "We're appalled by the conduct, and we thought we needed to do something to minimize the likelihood of it occurring in the future." 

Despite the settlement's hefty price tag, Russo said the cases could have cost the city tens of millions of dollars more had they gone to trial, pointing out that the victims had spent more than 25 years, combined, imprisoned on false charges. By comparison, Los Angeles spent $40 million to settle litigation stemming from the Rampart corruption scandal. 


Oakland's insurance carriers will pay 80 percent of the settlement, and the city will pay $2.18 million. 

"A lot of the plaintiffs are people who have bad histories with the law," Russo said. But "there are some people who did not have trouble with the law who got caught up in this kind of overzealous behavior. And even people who are career criminals are entitled to their constitutional rights." 

In addition, he said, the settlement prevents the U.S. Justice Department from imposing changes on the police department through consent decree, as it has done in other cities facing police misconduct scandals such as Los Angeles. 

Russo said the changes will make it easier for police brass to identify problem officers and deal with them. 

"Obviously, we weren't looking closely enough," he said. 

Under the settlement, patrol sergeants will oversee no more than eight officers. The Riders' supervisor, who was demoted, was in charge of two squads of eight officers each. 

Last month, the police department promoted 11 sergeants and one lieutenant to meet the new supervision demands, among several actions Chief Richard Word has taken in anticipation of the settlement. 

The agreement also says supervisors will be required to respond in person to any arrests involving felonies, drug possession, resisting arrest or use of force by an officer. 

Citizens giving written statements are to sign directly below their statement or draw a diagonal line to the bottom of the page and sign on that line. Some Riders' victims allege false information was added to statements. 

Officers will be required to record every time they stop a vehicle or detain a person, entering in a database information including the person's race and whether there was an arrest. 

The police department also will move its internal affairs unit from its headquarters to an office at City Hall plaza to make it more accessible, and less intimidating, to the public. 

A 24-hour, toll-free hot line for complaints will be established, and the department will take anonymous complaints. If a citizen tells an officer that he or she wants to make a complaint, the officer must make sure the person is immediately directed to proper authorities. 

Internal affairs also will conduct "stings" on officers facing repeated complaints. 

In addition, the police department will create a computerized early-warning system that will track everything from complaints and use of firearms to officers' training histories and sick days that it says will help flag "at- risk behavior." 

The department also will revamp its field training program in which new police academy graduates are assigned to work with veteran officers. Mabanag was the training officer for Keith Batt, the rookie who blew the whistle on the Riders after nine shifts. 

The police department estimates it will cost $10 million to implement the changes over the next five years, $3.5 million of it to pay for the monitor, likely a retired law enforcement official. 


After paying their attorneys a third of the settlement, the plaintiffs will split the remaining $7 million based on a formula that includes how long they were imprisoned and whether they were injured. The longest jail term was nearly 21 months. Burris and Chanin estimate their clients together spent 40 years falsely imprisoned because they count time served for parole and probation violations stemming from the original false charge. 

One client will receive more than $500,000, Burris said. 

"Many of these folks suffered a great deal and, for some, it is more money than they ever had in their lives," he said. 

Oakland will pay Burris and Chanin an additional $440,000 for the portion of the settlement regarding changes to the police department, bringing the total payout to $10,940,000. 

Two of the city's insurance carriers will pay nearly $8.76 million, with Oakland paying $2.18 million from its public liability fund. 

Oakland already has paid $195,000 to settle another Riders-related suit, and there is one more outstanding, filed by a man who was imprisoned for five years. 

The city also has spent $1.3 million on outside counsel, consultants and experts, but insurance will cover about $1 million of the costs. 

Still, Russo said the settlement "stands up" when compared with other cities' payouts in police cases. Los Angeles' $40 million Rampart settlement included a payment of $15 million to a man who was paralyzed after being shot by officers. 

Previously, Oakland's largest settlement was $2.75 million, paid in 2001 to a woman permanently disabled and confined to a wheelchair after a police car struck her vehicle. The largest payout in a police conduct case was $1.5 million, also in 2001, to survivors of two women killed in a 1991 home- invasion robbery after police dispatchers told them it was safe to go outside. 

E-mail Janine DeFao at  jdefao@sfchronicle.com

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle 


City agrees to pay in shooting by officer

By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published December 28, 2002) 
The city of Sacramento has agreed to pay $800,000 to the children and parents of Donald E. Venerable Jr., who was shot to death by a police officer who says he mistook the man's cell phone for a gun. 

Because the lawsuit involves minors, its settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge David F. Levi. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24. 

A suit on behalf of Venerable's wife is continuing before Levi, who has under submission the city's motion to resolve her case in its favor without a trial. 

The fatal shooting of the African American man by a young, white officer sparked an intense reaction from members of the African American community and launched several investigations that culminated in City Manager Bob Thomas calling for certain policy changes at the Police Department. 

In a motion filed Thursday seeking approval of the proposed settlement, Deputy City Attorney Marcos Kropf said the city and two police officers named as defendants continue to deny legal responsibility. 

"Nevertheless," Kropf said, "in an effort to mitigate ongoing expenses ... and ... minimize potential exposure to an adverse judgment, defendants are willing to settle." 

He said the amount was fixed "by assessing the potential damages that could be awarded ... and the potential for an award of attorneys' fees and costs should plaintiffs ... prevail," even nominally. 

Chief Assistant City Attorney Bill Carnazzo declined to comment further on Friday. 

The settlement is "something we feel comfortable accepting," said Walnut Creek attorney Andrew Schwartz, who represents the children and parents. 

"It's a lot of money," he added. "While it was an unjustified shooting, you're never going to bring him back. 

"I hope people have learned their lesson. I'm not sure that they have." 

Each child -- Mi'Shave Venerable, 5; Jhamon Venerable, 6; and Donald Edward Venerable III, 13 -- will receive $112,500, which will be used to purchase annuities. 

Each parent -- Donald Venerable Sr. and Norma Venerable -- will receive $96,000. 

The attorneys for the children and the parents will receive $240,500. The $30,000 balance will go to offset expenses incurred in pursuing the legal action. 

The confrontation that resulted in the 33-year-old Venerable's death began during the early morning hours of Feb. 9, 2001, when Officers Joseph Ellis and Casey Dionne were dispatched to the 7500 block of Mandy Drive on Venerable's own report of vandalism. 

It turned out to be a violent dispute between Venerable and his wife, Satanya, set off when she arrived home to find him with another woman. He summoned police when she retaliated by using a post to smash the windows of his car. 

After a brief discussion with the couple and others present, the officers left, believing they had defused the situation. 

A vehicle in front of them carrying some of those who had been at the scene made a U-turn and headed back, so Ellis and Dionne followed. They found that everybody had returned and Venerable was now wielding the post. 

Ellis trained his service pistol on Venerable while Dionne pointed a nonlethal stun gun at him. They ordered him to drop the post, which he did. 

Stories differ dramatically about what happened next. The two officers and one of the block's residents say Venerable reached into his jacket pocket, took something out, assumed a shooting stance, and pointed the object at Dionne. 

Dionne fired the stun gun and Ellis fired six rounds, hitting Venerable at least twice. The bullet that killed him entered his chest. 

The officers have testified that only later did they learn Venerable was unarmed and that the object in his hand was a cellular telephone. 

Five witnesses have testified that Venerable had his arms raised above his shoulders and was not threatening the officers when he was shot. 

Three of those five testified they heard Venerable tell the officers he was holding a phone. 

Satanya Venerable swore she heard him say, "Don't shoot, I am unarmed. This is a cell phone." Her testimony is corroborated by her husband's friend, Delmer Perry, and her mother, Carol Jones. 

Satanya Venerable's sister, Frances Wesley, testified that she heard the officers giving Venerable conflicting commands. "Get your hands up," one told him, while the other directed, "Get on the ground," Wesley recalled. 

She said she heard Venerable ask, "What do you want me to do? You want me to get down or you want me to stay up? You want me to put my hands up? I have my hands up. What do you want me to do?" 

Then the shooting started, Wesley said. 

Investigators concluded that race was not a factor in the shooting, and that the officers acted within their department's policies. 

But Thomas recommended that every officer be trained in the use of Taser guns within six months, and that all patrol cars be equipped with video cameras and voice-activated microphones within two years. 

The city manager also urged a review of the commands that officers employ in tense situations, and of officers' training in the use of deadly force. 

The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or  dwalsh@sacbee.com

LA jury awards $2 million to man shot by officer 

Saturday, August 17, 2002 
©2002 Associated Press 

URL:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/08/17/state0659EDT0039.DTL

(08-17) 03:59 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

A jury has awarded $2 million to an elderly man who was shot in the back by a police officer during a traffic stop two years ago. 

The Superior Court jury found Friday that former Los Angeles Police Department officer Ronald Orosco violated the civil rights of Charles Beatty, 68, when he fired four shots following an argument between the two men. 

Orosco, who was a member of the LAPD's vice unit, has pleaded no contest to a criminal charge stemming from the case and is serving a five-year sentence in state prison. 

Beatty's lawyers had asked for a $10 million judgment against Orosco and the city to pay for medical bills and pain and suffering. 

On Friday, attorney Carl E. Douglas said he was elated by the verdict. "Hopefully, a very powerful message has been sent -- and will be received by the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD -- so that tragedies of this type can be prevented in the future," he said. 

Beatty agreed, saying he felt compensated. "I don't think the amount really matters," he said. 

The verdict followed a three-week trial and three days of deliberations that jurors described as highly emotional. 

Jury forewoman Pearl Whitfield, 58, said some jurors placed less value on Beatty's life because he didn't have a high paying job. "It wasn't fair," she said. "He should have gotten more." 

Juror Angie Gillingham disagreed, saying it was difficult to award Beatty such a large amount because he was "50 percent responsible" for getting shot. She said Beatty had been obnoxious and argumentative with Orosco. "I think he contributed to what he got," she said. 

Jurors had trouble reaching a verdict regarding Orosco's partner, Gorgonio Medina, who was also named in the lawsuit. As a result, Beatty's lawyers decided to drop their claims against him. 

"Justice was done," said Deputy City Attorney Richard Arias, who represented Medina and the city. He declined to elaborate. 

Beatty was hit by one of four bullets fired as he drove away from Orosco and Medina after a traffic stop in June 2000. 

The two officers, who were in an unmarked police car and not in uniform, were stopped at a traffic light talking to a transient when Beatty pulled up behind them. 

Prosecutors said Beatty didn't know it was a police car and drove around it, crossing over a double-yellow line to turn left. 

After being pulled over, Beatty acknowledged he became argumentative, but eventually produced his driver's license and was cited by the officers. 

Prosecutors said a final exchange between Beatty and Orosco led the officer to try to pull him out of his car, but Beatty fled when he saw Orosco reach for his gun. 

Orosco said he was fearful of being dragged into traffic, so he opened fire. One bullet went through a rear window, piercing the driver's seat and striking Beatty in the back. The bullet remains lodged in Beatty's back. 

©2002 Associated Press 


Hearing closed for fired officer

He killed a teen, wants to tell story 

By Leslie Wolf Branscomb 

July 7, 2002 

NATIONAL CITY Former police officer Aaron Steveson, who killed a teen-ager and then was fired, has said all along he wants the public to hear his side of the story. 

Yet, Steveson's civil service hearing Wednesday, at which he will appeal his firing, will be closed to the public at the request of his lawyer. Attorney Everett Bobbitt said he asked for a closed hearing because of recent death threats against Steveson. 

"We initially demanded that it be open, but now I've changed my mind because, frankly, I don't want my client to be murdered," Bobbitt said. 

"I'm not easily intimidated, but we're going to go to some extraordinary security measures because I'm convinced (the threats) are real," Bobbitt said. 

Emmanuel Sotelo, 19, was shot in the back by Steveson as he fled from officers Oct. 5. Police said Sotelo dropped or threw down a loaded handgun while running, but he was unarmed when he was shot. 

Sotelo was a student at Southwestern College and an aspiring accountant, according to family members, who said he also was a gang member. 

For months, National City Police refused to release the name of the officer who shot Sotelo, citing death threats. Some of the threats reportedly came from a prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune sued to obtain the name of the officer and lost. The newspaper appealed the ruling, but it became a moot point after City Council members chose to publicly discuss Steveson's firing in May. 

Bobbitt would not say where Steveson is now living, but he said, "He's taken measures to protect himself." 

Bobbitt said he wants Steveson's side to be heard and is not opposed to allowing the media to attend the civil service hearing. 

"I think an airing of what happened will show he was wrongfully terminated," Bobbitt said. "We're going to put on an extremely strong case." 

Assistant City Attorney Rudy Hradecky, who is representing the city at the civil service hearing, objected. 

"It's either public or it's closed . . . he can't have it both ways," Hradecky said. "It is a personnel matter and it remains a closed hearing." 

Though the city and county of San Diego both require civil service commission hearings to be open to the public, many of the smaller cities in the county, including National City, leave it to the discretion of the employee. 

Hradecky said the civil service commission is not obligated to disclose the outcome of the hearing, which could run for four or five days. 

If the civil service commission upholds the termination, Bobbitt said Steveson will definitely appeal. "He doesn't want to leave with a termination on his record," Bobbitt said. 

First, Steveson would have to ask City Council to reverse the commission's ruling. Hradecky said those proceedings could be done in open or closed session, though if it is done behind closed doors, the council will have to publicly report the result. 

If City Council doesn't change the commission's recommendation, then Steveson will sue the city in Superior Court, Bobbitt said. 

The District Attorney's Office has reviewed the Sotelo shooting and found it was "unprosecutable," though the ruling stopped short of calling the shooting justifiable. 

Steveson was involved in another fatal shooting in 1999, in which a mentally ill man with a knife, who had escaped from a hospital, was killed. In that case, the district attorney found the shooting of Arturo Gonzalez was justified. The city of National City recently settled a lawsuit over Gonzalez's death for $80,000. 

The Sotelo family filed a wrongful death claim against the city for $180,000, which the city denied. The family's attorney, Sergio Feria, said a lawsuit against the city will probably be filed this month. "This case is not going to be resolved without litigation," Feria said. 

Leslie Branscomb: 
(619) 498-6630;  leslie.branscomb@uniontrib.com


Modesto to pay family $2.55 million for botched drug raid that killed 11-year-old 

 Wednesday, June 19, 2002 

(06-19) 21:00 PDT MODESTO, Calif. (AP) -- The city of Modesto announced Wednesday it will pay $2.55 million to settle a suit brought by the parents of an 11-year-old boy killed during a drug raid two years ago. 

Alberto Sepulveda was accidentally shot and killed by a member of the Modesto Police Department's SWAT Team in September of 2000. Modesto's city attorney, Michael Milich, said most of the $2.55 million will be covered by insurance. The parents of Sepulveda had filed a wrongful death suit against the city following the boy's killing. 


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- A woman filed a $2.5 million claim against the city, contending she was kidnapped and raped by an on-duty police officer charged last month with sexual misconduct on the job. Attorney Frank H. Guzman filed the claim Monday on behalf of the woman, who said Officer Ronald VanRossum attacked her. The lawyer wouldn't go into detail. "She's very scared," Guzman said. "She's afraid of retaliation." 

Five women have filed claims or lawsuits against the city alleging sexual assault by a city police officer. Some identify VanRossum, 37, as the attacker. VanRossum was arrested March 28 and charged with rape and other sex crimes involving 13 women. VanRossum attorney Bill Hadden said his client will plead innocent when he's arraigned June 17. Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Simmons wouldn't comment on the latest claim. The city settled a similar claim brought by another woman for $25,000.


LA pays $1.7 million to settle 1999 police shooting lawsuit

Wednesday, November 28, 2001 

Breaking News Sections 

(11-28) 23:54 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Council members on Wednesday unanimously voted to pay $1.7 million to settle a suit filed by nine people who claim police allegedly fired at an unarmed teen and later planted evidence including a gun and drugs. 

The civil rights lawsuit stemmed from a police shooting in February 1999 at a known crack house in south Los Angeles. According to police reports, Officer William Ferguson fired shots at 14-year-old Frank Harris but missed him. 

Witnesses in the house that night said Harris was unarmed and that police planted a gun in a bedroom, claiming it was his. They also claimed that Ferguson and his partner Officer Jeffrey Robb planted drugs on two other teens in the house a week later and falsely arrested them. Both officers invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify under oath about the shooting. 

Robb resigned last year amid unrelated misconduct charges. Ferguson has been assigned to home pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing about the shooting and other misconduct. The settlement money will be divided among nine people who alleged Ferguson and Robb violated their civil rights, attorney Ellen Ellison said. The shooting was deemed "in policy" by the civilian Police Commission last year. The case remains under investigation by the district attorney. Ferguson and Robb, who were trained in the scandal-plagued Rampart Division, were known on the streets as "Batman and Robin." 

©2001 Associated Press 


Los Angeles reaches tentative agreement with man shot by police 

Published 7:08 a.m. PST Wednesday, 
Nov. 28, 2001 

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A settlement has been reached between a man shot by police officers and the city attorney's office, it was reported Wednesday.City officials have tentatively agreed to pay $350,000 to Steven Short who was wounded by LAPD officers who stormed his house in 
February 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported. Two employees with the city attorney's office told the newspaper that a deal had been reached, but declined to state the amount of the offer.Police said before officers went into Short's home, a man had thrown a beer can at a car driven by an off-duty officer, who drove to the Foothill station and informed colleagues about what happened. A group of officers then left and spotted a car involved in the incident. 

They stopped and handcuffed the driver who then gave officers an address where the man may be.When officers arrived, they said Short came out of a bedroom and pointed a shotgun at one of them. Short allegedly refused to drop the gun and one of the officers shot him in the hip.Short said he was carrying the shotgun because he heard a noise in the living room but he dropped the weapon when he realized police had stormed his home.The lawsuit went to trial last year and a 
jury ruled that the officers did not violate Short's civil rights. 

Cops faulted in arrest of ex-Charger, his girlfriend | 

Pair's civil rights were violated, jurors conclude 

The San Diego Union - Tribune; San Diego, Calif.; Mar 1, 2001; Marisa Taylor; 

The officers denied the allegations, saying they detained [Shawn Lee] and [Cheryl Freeman] because they had "reasonable suspicion" that the couple might be involved in criminal wrongdoing. They also say Lee fit the description of the car thief. 

[Debby Cotellessa] followed the couple's car and had it stop on the shoulder of Interstate 15. The three other officers named in the suit followed to assist. After Lee and Freeman were ordered out of the car, Lee was frisked. The couple were handcuffed and the car was searched. 

Officers Cotellessa and [Cesar Murillo] were found liable for detaining the couple for an unreasonable amount of time. The officers estimated the couple was held for less than 15 minutes. But Lee and Freeman say they were held for 30 minutes. 


Claim filed in toy-gun slaying

Crime The teen's family seeks $15 million from Huntington Beach. 

May 11, 2001 
HUNTINGTON BEACH The family of a Mexican farm worker shot to death by a police officer filed a $15 million claim against the city Thursday, alleging negligence and violation of civil rights.Police shot Antonio Saldivar, 18, on Saturday after a foot chase through the Oak View neighborhood. Officers say the youth pointed a toy rifle at them, but family members question their account.The $15 million civil-rights and wrongful-death claim alleges that Saldivar, also known as 



Oakland Cops Are Sued in Pedestrian Death, Shooting Cases

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, November 2, 2000 

Two claims have been filed against Oakland police, one for a pedestrian death after a police chase and the other for a fatal officer-involved shooting, attorneys said yesterday. In both cases last year, Oakland attorneys Dennis Roberts and Ivan Golde said officers lied to justify actions that ultimately led to wrongful deaths. In response, city attorneys have rejected the claims and denied any wrongdoing. 

On Nov. 3, Mable Daniel, 55, of Oakland was killed when an unlicensed driver being chased by police ran a red light at High Street and Foothill Boulevard, hit a truck and slammed into her. Daniel was thrown 60 feet into a group of gasoline pumps at a nearby Shell station. She died instantly. The driver, Robert James Motton, 22, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and evading arrest, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Golde said Oakland police are liable in the case for deciding to chase Motton after they saw him driving recklessly moments before the crash. Vehicle-code violations are not enough to warrant a chase, Golde said. 

Oakland police Sgt. Joseph Carranza and Officer Joseph Kroushour of the fugitive unit were in an unmarked car when they reported nearly being hit by the suspect. But Golde said witnesses indicated that was not the case. ``(Motton) never attempted to back up the car into the officers,'' Golde said. ``The officers claim this as a reason for a big chase.'' Deborah Levy, Motton's defense attorney, agreed, saying, ``I believe there may be comparative negligence on the part of the police. I am of the opinion that they were not candid.'' 

Oakland Assistant City Attorney Randolph Hall said officers, at their discretion and with regard to safety issues, can chase suspects for vehicle-code violations. Hall said the city is immune from liability in this case because Motton, a third party, caused Daniel's death. In the second case, Oakland police Officer Steve Nowak shot and killed suspected drug dealer Nathan Hornes, 36, last Dec. 5 after Hornes allegedly tried to run the officer down with a car, authorities said. In her claim, Hornes' mother, Sylvia Hornes, accused Nowak of making up a story that her son tried to use his car as a weapon. Nowak was standing beside Hornes' car when the shooting occurred, and Hornes could not have used his car in a threatening manner, the claim said. Hornes' wife, Kimberly Hornes, and two children filed a lawsuit last month in Alameda County Superior Court, also alleging that police lied about the circumstances of the case. 

``This comes up an awful lot,'' Golde said. ``It's a tacit secret at (the Oakland Police Department) if worse comes to worse, say he tried to run you over. It's a very, very common practice, and it's very suspicious.'' Hall responded, ``It sounds like a lot of hogwash to me.'' Officers are justified in shooting suspects in cars if the car is deemed an immediate threat that could lead to death or serious bodily injury, he said. In a separate case, the Oakland City Council on Tuesday night approved a $12,000 settlement with an Oakland family who accused several officers of falsely arresting them and using excessive force when they responded to their home in 1995. Police thought someone at Christobal Ochoa-Lopez' home was the victim of domestic violence and waited for a Spanish-speaking officer to help interpret for the victim, Hall said. Some family members got angry and ``started to act hostile toward the officers,'' resulting in arrests, Hall said. E-mail Henry K. Lee at  hlee@sfchronicle.com


Oakland Settles Suit With Ex-Port Commissioner 
Use of force questioned in car theft case 

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer Tuesday, October 3, 2000 

A former Oakland Port Commission president, who said police wrongfully pulled him over in what they thought was a stolen car and forced him to the ground, has agreed to a $10,000 settlement with the city. Celso Ortiz, 47, of Oakland said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that Oakland police officers Brad Miller and Alexander Jose pulled his 1984 Toyota van over on April 9, 1999 near his home on 16th Avenue in East Oakland and told him they would shoot him if he moved. 

Ortiz reported his van stolen on March 25, 1999. Two days before his encounter with police, a neighbor of Ortiz spotted the van on Telegraph Avenue and 25th Street and Ortiz went to retrieve it. Ortiz called police to say he found his van, but officers were too busy to take his report, the suit said. When he was pulled over, Ortiz told the officers that the van was his and that he had the registration to prove it, but they ordered him out of the van, forced him to the ground and handcuffed him, according to the suit, which accused police of negligence and violating his constitutional rights. 

The officers told Ortiz that his van was still reported as stolen on an Oakland police document known as a ``hot sheet,'' which lists the license plates of swiped vehicles. Ortiz, who served as president of the Oakland Port Commission from 1996 to 1998, accused the police yesterday of ``stopping someone Mexican on the street.'' ``I really think they need to instill policies against racial profiling with some teeth in it,'' said Ortiz, an attorney for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. in Oakland. But Assistant City Attorney Randolph Hall said the city agreed to the settlement with no admission of wrongdoing. 

Ortiz' van was listed on the ``hot sheet,'' and Ortiz did not ``follow through'' in ensuring that police knew his car had been found, Hall said. ``The officers believed they were acting in good faith,'' Hall said. ``It was a breakdown in communication. This really was an anomaly.'' Hall said the city decided to settle rather than go to trial because it was unclear whether jurors would understand how Ortiz was taken out of the car ``from an officer safety perspective.'' Ortiz' attorney Jim Chanin of Berkeley said his client, who is Latino, was the victim of ``racial profiling, abject incompetence or both.'' The city never produced the ``hot sheet'' as evidence, he said. ``This case showed a fundamental flaw with both the way people are stopped and the way information is processed,'' Chanin said. E-mail Henry K. Lee at  hlee@sfchronicle.com

Gang member's family sues L.A. police

COURTS: The federal civil-rights lawsuit is the latest development in the corruption scandal. 

November 24, 1999 

The Associated Press 
The family of a gang member killed in a questionable police shooting filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit Tuesday, the latest development in what the city attorney said could be the most costly police liability problem in Los Angeles history.The suit by the family of 19-year-old Juan Manuel Saldana, shot by Rampart Division officers at an apartment complex in 1996, stems from a wide-ranging investigation into corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department. The L.A. District 

Stun-belt ban not felt in O.C.

COURTS: A judge limits the devices use after a defendant was jolted for talking too much. 

November 17, 1998 

The Orange County Register
A federal judge tentatively ruled Monday that Los Angeles County can't use 50,000-volt electric stun belts on defendants brought into court, saying it violates the right to free speech. However, the ruling is unlikely to have an effect on the use of such belts in Orange County, officials said. "We only use the belts when the defendant poses a security risk, when there is an escape attempt or potential for violence," said Lt. Ann Ortiz of the Orange County 

Getting rich all in the wrists

July 20, 2000

The Orange County Register
I'd like to extend an open invitation to any police agency in Orange County: At your earliest convenience, please storm into my place of business and slap handcuffs on me and make me lie face down on the floor for an hour or so. No, I'm not making this request because I would enjoy such treatment. But I sure could use the money. What brings this up is the case of Merrit L. Sharp III, 59, a Garden Grove auto-body shop owner who this week was awarded a cool $1


Policy for strip search finalized

By TIM BRAGG, Californian staff writer 
e-mail: mailto:%20tbragg@bakersfield.com
Wednesday August 08, 2001, 12:03:44 AM 

The Bakersfield Police Department plans to put in place a permanent policy detailing rules on when officers may conduct strip searches in the field in about two weeks. But the change comes too late to ward off a lawsuit by the two Bakersfield men whose complaint led to the policy's creation. 

Tony Eddington and Robert Johnson have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno against the city of Bakersfield, the police department and two officers, seeking damages of $100,000 each against the officers involved and $150,000 against the city, according to court records. The men, who are black, say they were ordered to submit to a roadside strip search March 23 after officers stopped them for a traffic violation, and allege in the suit that the search was race-related. 

Before the filing of the lawsuit, the men filed a claim for damages with the city, but the city plans to reject it as "without merit," according to Deputy City Attorney Robert Sherfy. The men filed the federal lawsuit July 5. City Attorney Bart Thiltgen said he couldn't comment on the credibility of the claims made in the lawsuit because he had not yet reviewed the suit. 

Bakersfield police Chief Eric Matlock said the permanent policy contains similar rules to an interim one that has been in effect since April. The permanent policy is still under final review, but a draft version of the policy defines such searches and lays out ground rules for when they may be conducted: 

* Officers must have reasonable suspicion that an individual is concealing a weapon, or probable cause to believe a person being searched is hiding contraband. 
* Unless it is a situation where a weapon or other threat to officer safety is involved, officers will not conduct a strip search unless they receive prior permission from a supervisor. 
* Searches will be conducted by officers of the same gender as those being searched. 
* If a person has to remove their clothing, it shall be done in an area of privacy so the person cannot be observed by other persons. The policy says such searches should be conducted at a jail or police station whenever possible. 
* No "physical body cavity searches" will be conducted, because these require search warrants. 
* Officers who perform in-field strip searches will write a report detailing their actions and the circumstances leading up to the search. 

"The draft policy was written to conform with case law and legal precedent involving strip searches," Matlock said. On the night of March 23, Eddington and Johnson allege they were pulled over by two Bakersfield police officers for a traffic violation. They say they were told to pull down their pants and underwear in the back of a patrol car near the corner of H Street and Ming Avenue or they would face having to go jail. 

The men allege the male officer made them show their genitalia and buttocks. They said the door to the patrol car was open at the time. Matlock said the investigation of the incident has been completed and results have been forwarded to the officers' division commander for review. Although he said he could not divulge the details of the investigation because it was a personnel matter under state law, he did say he believes that Eddington and Johnson were not telling the entire truth. Efforts to reach the two men were unsuccessful. Donald Duchow, attorney for Eddington and Johnson, declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit, but he said the men's case has merit. "We don't file frivolous lawsuits," he said. 

Officer to keep job amid probe

By MARIA MACHUCA, Californian staff writer 
e-mail: mailto:%20mmachuca@bakersfield.com
Monday October 01, 2001, 10:28:16 PM 

ARVIN -- An Arvin police officer accused of misconduct will keep his job 
while contesting the department's reasons for wanting him fired. 

The officer is under investigation for sexual harassment, police brutality 
and fabricating evidence. He formally appealed his termination late last week. 

City Manager Tom Payne had sent a letter to the accused officer via certified 
mail Sept. 24, giving him until 5 p.m. Monday to appeal his case or be 

Payne said the officer's attorney is currently reviewing the city's internal 
investigation reports, which were completed more than a week ago. 

City officials have refused to disclose the officer's name, arguing that the 
investigation is still a personnel matter. 

The officer remains on paid administrative leave, as he has been for the last 
three months. 

Payne declined to say whether his office is planning to seek criminal charges 
against the police officer. 

The case has not been referred to the Kern County District Attorney's Office. 

Assistant District Attorney Stephen Tauzer said that in most cases, an agency 
needs to wait until enough evidence is gathered before asking for criminal 

The D.A.'s office normally would not conduct an independent investigation 
unless it receives citizens' complaints, Tauzer said. None has been filed. 

The allegations against the accused officer include dishonesty, misuse of 
city property, falsification of evidence and reports, abuse of power, sexual 
harassment and incompetence. 

Published on October 25, 2001, 
The Orange County Register 

Brea police officer sued in fatal car collision

A Brea police officer involved in a traffic accident that killed a woman and her son has been sued on allegations of wrongful death, along with the Police Department and the city. 

Relatives of Sophie Xanthos Savas, 66, of Yorba Linda accuse officer Charles R. Croix of speeding through a red light April 11 in response to a call in an unincorporated area near Anaheim. 

Croix's police cruiser slammed into a 1997 Honda Accord as it made a turn. Killed were Savas and her son, . . . 

Published on July 7, 2001, 
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA) 


A federal jury in an $11.3 million wrongful death lawsuit cleared eight Westminster police officers Friday of using excessive force against a man who died after being hogtied. 

The jury deliberated for two days before denying the claim filed by the family of Tuan Tang, 19. 

``Our family is extremely pained and very sad with the court proceedings today,'' Tom Tang, the teen's father, said through an interpreter. 

In closing arguments, attorney Geoffrey Lyon said Tang's. . . 

Published on June 20, 2001, 
Fresno Bee, The (CA) 

Psychologist calls Neville suicidal

A police psychologist testified Tuesday that he believed Tom Neville wanted Fresno police officers to kill him as part of a phenomenon known as "suicide by cop." 

Neville, a former Fresno State and National Football League player, was shot 12 times by police during a confrontation after he had escaped from a Fresno psychiatric hospital May 9, 1998. 

Kris Mohandie, a psychologist with the Los Angeles Police Department, said he had reviewed records in the Neville case and believes. . . 
Published on June 23, 2001, 
Fresno Bee, The (CA) 

Officers absolved

There was no joy in this victory. 

In a somber federal courtroom, the verdict of a jury was read Friday, absolving six Fresno police officers of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Tom Neville. 

Some of the officers looked toward the ceiling in the cavernous courtroom and others stared at the floor as the unanimous verdicts were read. Later, they shook hands and hugged one other and their supporters, but their mood after three weeks of trial remained subdued. 

Neville's widow,. . . 


Insurance company pays for torn-up marijuana

ONTARIO: The back yard of a man who had the plants for medicinal purposes was raided. 

ONTARIO - A man who says he uses marijuana for medicinal purposes received $5,525 from his insurance company after arguing that the back yard crop police ripped up was covered by his homeowner's policy. 

Ontario police seized the plants from David Fawcett's back yard last May. 

Fawcett, who said he uses marijuana every day to treat his chronic depression, argued that the theft of trees, shrubs and other plants is covered by his policy. 

Fawcett, 46, recently received his check from National General. 

Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, said such claims are becoming more common since California voters passed Prop. 215 in 1996, allowing the medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor's authorization. 

"This is an issue that keeps coming up," Moraga said. "It has been covered by major carriers in the past but some also have chosen not to cover it." 

Fawcett said he used most of the money to pay off old debts -- including $1,000 he borrowed to post bail after his marijuana arrest. 

The San Bernardino County district attorney's office did not press charges but referred the case to the Drug Enforcement Administration to determine if Fawcett violated federal law. He has not been charged. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal law does not recognize the medicinal use of marijuana. 

Published on January 2, 2001, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


Not counting the millions of dollars the city is paying in Rampart police corruption settlements, Los Angeles is on pace to surpass last year's record payouts for legal claims, the Daily News has learned.

Six months into the fiscal year, the city has shelled out $51.8 million in total liability payments, according to city documents. That compares with a total of $82.9 million in the full previous budget year. 

``I don't think it's anything unusual. I think that what is. . . 

Published on December 15, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


The city council has approved two more settlements of lawsuits stemming from a police corruption scandal, bringing to 45 the number resolved so far, at a cost of about $31 million. 

More than 70 lawsuits and 80 claims are pending, and city attorneys estimate settlement costs could top $125 million. 

The council on Tuesday agreed with a city attorney's office recommendation to pay Robert Andrade and Olga Alatorre $400,000 each. 

Andrade claims disgraced former officer Rafael Perez and. . . 

Published on December 13, 2000, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday agreed to the settlement of two more lawsuits - for $400,000 each - related to the Rampart Division police corruption case. 

Council members agreed to the settlements in cases involving Roberto Andrade and Olga Alatorre. 

Officials said Alatorre was stopped by former Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden on the basis of a tip that she was dealing drugs. Perez, who has been convicted on cocaine charges, has accused fellow officers of assaulting and. . . 

Published on November 22, 2000, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


The City Council approved a $15 million settlement Tuesday with a man shot in the back and paralyzed by police officers who then allegedly planted a gun next to him. 

It is the largest settlement stemming from the Los Angeles Police Department's ongoing corruption scandal and the largest for police misconduct in the city's history. 

Javier Francisco Ovando, now 23, agreed to settle because it eliminates the delays and uncertainty of a jury trial, said his attorney, . . . 

Published on November 7, 2000, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has negotiated settlements of lawsuits filed by 29 victims of the LAPD's Rampart Division scandal for an average of nearly 400,000 each, officials announced Monday. 

The settlements, subject to City Council approval, total $10.95 million to resolve nearly one-third of all the cases filed to this point. More than 60 other cases, some involving victims who were killed or seriously injured, remain unresolved along with class-action suits against. . . 

Published on February 11, 2000, 
Press-Enterprise, The (Riverside, CA) 

$49,999 awarded husband, wife: 

The San Bernardino County cases involved a sheriff's deputy who admitted having sex with the woman.SAN BERNARDINO 

A woman and her husband won $49,999 from San Bernardino County to settle civil-rights cases against the Sheriff's Department and a deputy who admitted to having sex with the woman. 

The two cases, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside in 1997 and 1998, allege that Deputy James Wiebeld violated the civil rights of Carla Brachais and her then-fiancÀe, Jeff Darr, by framing him for a drug crime and coercing her into a sexual relationship. 

Darr has been in. . . 


Published on February 10, 2000, The Orange County Register 

Activists call for Santa Ana officer's firing

CITIES: Hispanics have become wary of police force. 

Some community members are calling for the firing of the officer involved in the shooting death of Jose Campos. 

Leaders in the Hispanic community say the Campos case and the fact officer James Tavenner remains on the force are examples of continuing police injustice toward minorities.Campos was driving a stolen car on a residential street in 1998 when he was killed by Tavenner. The Orange County grand jury cleared Tavenner in May, and last month the city reached a $205,000. . . 

Published on December 1, 1999, 
The Orange County Register 

L.A. County will pay for jailing wrong twin

LAW: An Arkansas man whose brother is a bank-robbery suspect will get $150,000.An Arkansas man jailed for 13 days because deputies mistook him for his fugitive twin brother will receive $150,000 from Los Angeles County in exchange for dropping the county from his federal lawsuit. 

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the payment to Ray Dean Nugent and agreed that the Sheriff's Department would improve its policy on warrant arrests. 

Ray Nugent says he's been stopped several times since police in Opelousas, La., issued an arrest warrant. . . 

Published on November 25, 1998, 
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) 


The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Michael Edwards, who was shot to death by a man who retrieved a confiscated handgun from the LAPD's Foothill Division. 

Edwards was killed Sept. 19, 1995, by James Landsberger. The family's lawsuit charged that Foothill Division officers improperly returned a handgun to Landsberger, a domestic violence suspect who used the weapon just two months later to kill. . . 

Published on November 3, 2001, 
The Orange County Register 

County, police agencies sued in girl's abuse death

Crime: Suit says dad tipped authorities that child was in danger.A dead 5-year-old at the center of a criminal case now is the focus of a civil lawsuit that blames the county and two police agencies for her demise. 

The father of Claudia Jimena Orozco Correal sued his estranged wife and her boyfriend Wednesday. Also named as defendants are the county Social Services Agency and the Stanton and Placentia police departments. 

The child died of blows to the abdomen Nov. 16, 2000. The slaying suspect, a boyfriend who lived with the girl's. . . 

Published on September 19, 2001, 
The Orange County Register 

Capizzi may face court in O.C.

Law The ex-O.C. district attorney has an interest in a police-related lawsuit.The first case selected by the California Supreme Court to be heard in Orange County centers on a controversial police personnel-file issue out of Santa Ana that has drawn statewide attention. 

Former Orange County District Attorney Michael Capizzi is among several lawyers who have asked the state Supreme Court to be heard at the special session on the issue.Capizzi, who was defeated in his bid to be elected California attorney general and Orange County Superior Court judge, . . . 

Injured athlete sues officers

The ex-prep star claims his baseball career was damaged when a police car ran 
over him. 

Published on November 22, 2001, Sacramento Bee . 

A former top prep athlete sued the city of Sacramento on Wednesday, claiming 
his chance to play big-time college baseball was crippled when a police 
patrol car ran over him. .. . 

Matthew Singer says the incident last spring caused physical and mental 
injuries, including one dreaded by athletes - a torn medial collateral 
ligament in his right knee. He also suffered severe lacerations and 
third-degree burns, as well as injury to his reputation and emotional 
distress, according the suit. . . 

Public won't be privy to details of $100,000 police settlement

Published on November 19, 2001, Sacramento Bee 

City settlement: 

It was an ugly story. Three women, all officers with the Sacramento Police Department, filed a lawsuit against a supervisor, Capt. Richard Shiraishi, alleging sexual harassment. The suit was filed in 1998. 

Now it has been settled out of court, with Linda Kercheval, Laurie Zoulas and  Constance Cummings sharing $100,000 in city funds. "Neither side admitted any guilt, and all parties are prohibited from discussing the matter under the settlement terms," said Sacramento. . . 

Four Oakland cops accused of abuses

Charges against the 'Riders' upset convictions and result in lawsuits. 

Published on September 4, 2001, 

Few dispute the fact that West Oakland for years has suffered from a crime problem, stemming mainly from the sale of illegal drugs. In recent years, as the area slowly began to gentrify, local politicians and law-abiding residents pushed the Police Department to clean it up, and the department was willing. 

But it appears that four Oakland police officers dubbed "The Riders" crossed the line, to the point where they allegedly committed crimes themselves by assaulting young. . . 

Published on April 3, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


A well-known Union City family claims a city police officer acted recklessly when he shot and killed their relative while she was seeking help for a drug problem three years ago. 

But police say Lucilla ''Chilla'' Amaya was high on methamphetamine, armed with steak knives and could have easily killed the two family members who were in the house with her. 

The dueling versions of Amaya's fatal shooting on March 7, 1998, in her Decoto district home unfolded Monday. . . 

Published on July 18, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Mental health advocates and the family of an Oakland man killed by BART police say an officer should have tried to reason with Bruce Seward before shooting him. 

During a Tuesday press conference in San Francisco, Seward's family also expressed frustration that they haven't seen a police report on the May 28 shooting. 

When reached later in the day, BART spokesman Mike Healy said the Alameda County deputy district attorney leading the investigation plans to make the initial report. . 

Published on May 16, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


An East Palo Alto woman has asked the city for more than $80,000 in damages after a SWAT team stormed her family's home during a bizarre standoff in a fruitless search for her brother. 

Veronica Cazzalli claims the East Palo Alto police trashed her mother's home March 14 while looking for her brother, Luis Alfonso Cazzalli, hours into what police considered an armed hostage situation. 

The city council planned to reject that claim Tuesday night, along with another from an East. . . 

. Published on April 17, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


An Oakland group that advocates for victims of police brutality launched an inquiry Monday into the death of a 36-year-old man who authorities said died after a violent fistfight with police. 

Oakland police said Jamil Wheatfall was being chased by officers as a suspect in a Saturday afternoon bank robbery. Wheatfall, who has previous robbery, drug and assault convictions, died after a subsequent struggle. 

Exactly how he died has not been disclosed. 

Maggie Aragon, organizer of PUEBLO. . . 

Published on April 4, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


This article was incomplete in some of Tuesday's editions. 

An African-American man who sued a San Jose police officer and two park rangers, contending they illegally searched his van solely because of his race and later wrote a false report about the encounter, was awarded $110,500 by a U.S. District Court jury Monday. 

Plaintiff Carl Simpson, who worked as an investigator for the San Jose city attorney at the time of the May 6, 1997, incident, said the verdict was vindication. And he. . . 

Published on January 19, 2001, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


The city will pay $1.5 million to a man and his son to settle a lawsuit in which poor instructions from a police dispatcher may have led to the shooting death of two women during a home-invasion robbery. 

Bok Chan and his son Edwin will receive the money. Bok Chan's wife, Yuet Ngor Tang Chan, and his daughter, Sarah, were killed during a botched home robbery Sept. 10, 1991. 

Sarah Chan was on the phone with a police dispatcher on 911 when she was told to go outside and meet police. . . 

Published on December 15, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


The family of a mentally ill, homeless man who was shot by San Diego police after he charged at them with a tree branch has agreed to settle a lawsuit for $5,000. 

The settlement is meant to help cover funeral expenses for William Anthony Miller, the city attorney's office announced Wednesday. 

Three officers shot Miller, 42, seven times after he allegedly threatened and struck several people outside a fast-food restaurant. 

The Feb. 8 shooting provoked widespread community. . . 

Published on May 5, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Within the month, East Palo Alto city officials expect to hear the results of yet another critique of the city's police department. 

This $35,000 evaluation was commissioned by the city council in February to assess its lawsuit-plagued and cash-strapped department and recommend ways to improve it. PSComm, a national law-enforcement consulting firm, has completed its draft report, according to Joe Brann, a former Hayward police chief and the assessment's principal author. . . 

Published on March 14, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


A West Valley College student who has sued police for false arrest has petitioned a Santa Clara County Superior Court appellate panel for a hearing to clear her name from police records. 

In her lawsuit, Anne Hanly, 41, maintains that she was beaten and choked last year when she tried to leave her 54-year-old boyfriend. But when police arrived at the boyfriend's home in February 1999, they wound up taking her into custody instead. 

Hanly charges that the officers ignored choke marks on. . . 

Published on March 2, 2000, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


East Palo Alto was hit Wednesday with a $3.5 million lawsuit claiming a former officer groped three Peninsula teenagers during a traffic stop last summer. 

In a separate case, the city tentatively agreed to pay a female police officer $99,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit. 

The two lawsuits represent the city's larger troubles with its embattled police department, as several of its officers have been sued or disciplined on issues ranging from brutality to harassment. . . 

Published on January 11, 2000, 

San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


A Santa Cruz man serving a nine-month jail sentence for punching a police officer has filed a $1 million claim against the city over his arrest. 

Steven Argue, 30, claims he was beaten and falsely arrested by police in violation of his civil rights for punching officer Dave Lafaver in the nose during an anti-war demonstration May 22. 

Argue claimed he was defending a woman and her child from Lafaver, who was trying to move them away from a departing police van. Argue fled after delivering. . . 

Published on December 18, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


East Palo Alto's beleaguered police department has been hit with another sexual harassment lawsuit by a former officer who alleges she was subjected to sexual advances and intimidation and then fired when she complained about it.Following several similar suits against East Palo Alto police, the complaint by Gina Garibaldi paints a picture of a department that tolerates persistent abuse of female employees. The department ''created a continuing and ongoing intolerable, . . . 

Published on December 17, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


After a monthlong trial, jurors deliberated less than three hours before rejecting a lawsuit brought against the city of San Jose by a teenager who was shot at least seven times by police during a confrontation nearly three years ago.Carlos Pedraza Jr., accused the officers of battery and violating his civil rights by using excessive force in the Jan. 20, 1997, shooting that left him paralyzed from the chest down.In finding for the defense, the jury cleared the city, specifically, Sgt. . . 

Published on December 1, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Blood tests show that San Jose police Sgt. Gordon Fujino was legally drunk on the afternoon of Oct. 29 when the van he was driving while off duty rear-ended another car on Monterey Road, killing him and severely injuring the other driver.Fujino's blood-alcohol level was 0.11 percent, according to results of lab tests conducted by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 in California.Fujino was ejected from the passenger side of his brown. . . 

Published on November 21, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Many California law enforcement agencies don't routinely review civil- and family-court records when performing background checks on prospective police officers -- raising the possibility that people with troubled or violent pasts can wear a badge and carry a gun.A Mercury News survey of 15 Bay Area law enforcement agencies found that fewer than a third regularly look in court files for past domestic-violence restraining orders or other civil judgments against job candidates.. . . 

Published on July 30, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


A San Mateo County jury has awarded $1.9 million to compensate a Hispanic officer who endured a hostile work environment at the South San Francisco Police Department but denied his claim that he had been retaliated against.Danilo Molieri, 38, contended that other officers used racial slurs to describe people of color and lashed out at him when he spoke out against alleged racial harassment against citizens.The city is considering an appeal of Wednesday's judgment. . . 

Published on July 25, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


The long, jagged scars on top of 19-year-old Aaron Rivera's shaved head seemed to sparkle in the sun as he marched down Santa Clara Street in San Jose on Saturday afternoon with about 100 other people. The Hayward teen says they were put there by a San Jose police officer who nearly beat him to death with a baton on May 7, breaking his arm and causing his brain to swell.He doesn't remember much about the beating except that he felt a thump on the back of his head while in downtown. . . 


$195,000 settlement in 'Riders' case 
Suit one of dozens alleging misconduct by Oakland police 

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, December 17, 2001 

The city of Oakland is set to pay $195,000 to settle the first of dozens of federal civil rights lawsuits involving "the Riders," a group of Oakland police officers facing criminal charges of beating or framing people, sources familiar with the case said yesterday. The proposed payout, the first in the Riders civil cases, would bring to almost $2 million the amount Oakland has paid this year to settle lawsuits alleging police misconduct. 

In a lawsuit filed April 3 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Kenneth Davis of Oakland accused now-fired Oakland officers Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag and Matthew Hornung of planting drugs on him near 15th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland. In a plea bargain with the Alameda County district attorney's office, Davis admitted guilt to possession of dangerous drugs and served 16 months in prison. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson later set aside Davis' conviction on grounds that he was wrongfully convicted. Mabanag and Hornung were part of a group of officers who called themselves "the Riders" and have been criminally charged with lying in police reports and assaulting people. They were not charged with any crimes against Davis. Mabanag, 36, Hornung, 30, and Jude Siapno, 33, have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial in Oakland on March 4, although defense attorneys for the fired officers will seek a change of venue in February. 

A fourth former officer, alleged leader Francisco Vazquez, 45, is believed to have fled the country and is being sought by the FBI. The Davis settlement, which still must be approved by the Oakland City Council, was reached Dec. 4 and signed by U.S. Magistrate James Larson in San Francisco, court records show. 

Karen Boyd, spokeswoman for the Oakland city attorney's office, declined to discuss the Davis settlement and the other Riders cases yesterday, which a source said were also getting closer to being settled. Davis' attorney, Andrew Schwartz of Walnut Creek, declined comment. John Burris, an Oakland civil rights attorney who is representing 85 plaintiffs in eight federal lawsuits in the Riders cases, would not confirm the Davis deal but said, "We have many clients who are either aggrieved or more so than Kenneth Davis, so it's obviously a positive sign for many of those clients." 

E-mail Henry K. Lee at  hlee@sfchronicle.com


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