Friday, January 25, 2002
Judge Sustains Demurrer in Officer’s Suit Against Olson for Bomb Plot
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge yesterday sustained a demurrer to a complaint brought by a former Los Angeles police officer against Sara Jane Olson for her involvement in a 1975 bomb plot, but granted leave to amend.
Judge Alban I. Niles ruled that the claim brought by retired Los Angeles Police Department Officer James Bryan, which accuses Olson of assault, was legally flawed because it does not state that Bryan was aware of the potential danger he was facing.
“There is no allegation in the complaint that plaintiff was aware of the bomb, so the complaint should be amended in order to more fully state the apprehension theory,” Niles ruled.
Bryan and his partner, Officer John Hall, were eating dinner inside an International House of Pancakes on Sunset Boulevard more than 26 years ago when a bomb was planted underneath their patrol car. A clothespin, which was supposed to cause two metal parts to spark and ignite, did not close properly. After finding that device, the LAPD searched its entire fleet of squad cars and found a second bomb in a patrol car at the Hollenbeck station.
Olson was sentenced last Friday to 20-years-to-life for her involvement in planting the two nail-packed pipe bombs.
The judge allowed Bryan’s attorney, Bradley Gage, 15 days to amend the complaint, something Gage said amounted to adding an extra paragraph or two. But Olson attorney Andrew Vorzimer said Gage will be unable to legally argue the assault accusation.
“It has a fatal flaw,” Vorzimer said of the claim. “This is no different than a blind person having a gun pointed at them and being told afterward or a deaf person having a gun shot near them and being unaware of it at the time.”
Bryan alleges he suffered “fear for his life and other damages generally called emotional distress” as a result of what occurred. He is seeking unspecified general and punitive damages for the assault he said he suffered.
Bryan, a retired security consultant and former buffalo rancher, first took a stress leave, then left the LAPD two years later. One of the major motivating factors of his departure from the department was the bombing incident, Gage said. Bryan, now in his 50s, lives in the Midwest, but he declined to pinpoint his location.
Niles overruled the defense attorney Joseph Singleton’s request to dismiss the case representing Olson in court based on the elapsed 1-year statute of limitations.
But Niles disagreed, saying that all time limits were stalled after Olson was indicted in 1976. Olson changed her named from Kathleen Soliah and moved to Minnesota soon after the attempted bombings, where she has been living as a doctor’s wife and the suburban mother of three daughters.
Niles also lifted the stay on discovery, which has been in place for the past two years while Olson has been involved in criminal proceedings, disregarding the defense argument that the criminal judgement is not final until all appeals have been exhausted.
“What I have before me is a sentenced defendant and no appeal,” Niles said.
Gage will now be allowed to conduct depositions with Olson and others involved in the case.
Both attorneys claimed victory in the courtroom.
“We are elated with the result,” Vorzimer, of Vorzimer, Masserman & Chapman, said. “This is some much needed good news for the family.”
Vorzimer said he understood why Niles had to withdraw the stay on discovery since there is currently no appeal filed in the Los Angeles bombing case, but said he expects an appeal to be filed in the next seven to ten days, long before Gage must file his amended complaint.
But Gage called the judge’s decision “a very significant win” in a case which he said he hopes to draw money from the profits of Olson’s cookbook.
Bryan plans to donate any of his award to charitable organizations benefiting victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the widows and orphans of police officers, Gage said.
Olson supporters started a Web site and created a cookbook, “Serving Time: America’s Most Wanted Recipes,” which has generated money for her plane trips back and forth to the West Coast.
Vorzimer called the idea of getting anything out of the fund, which he said has produced minimal profit, “outrageous.”
Vorzimer said he initially received payment from proceeds from the cookbook fund, but now represents her free of charge now that the fund has also been drained of resources.
Bryan’s former partner Hall, who has been with the LAPD since 1971, said he stayed past his tour of duty with the department to see Olson sentenced and said he is not interested in pursuing the matter in civil court.
“My goal was criminal,” Hall, who is planning to retire soon, said. “I wanted to see justice served in the criminal case.”
“If I never go back to court another day its all good for me,” he said. “I’m tired of going to court.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company