Friday, April 1, 2005
Rampart Settlements Estimated to Reach $70 Million, Delgadillo Says Total Is Far Less Than Anticipated
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The city said yesterday it would pay about $70 million to settle lawsuits that alleged misconduct or brutality by corrupt police officers in an anti-gang unit.
Since the allegations surfaced more than five years ago, 214 lawsuits have been filed by mostly drug dealers, gang members and other criminals who said they had been framed, shot and beaten by the unit’s officers in the Rampart division.
Twenty-seven claims were dismissed and eight are pending settlements, which are part of the $70 million total payout, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.
The settlements mark the “end of an unfortunate and dark chapter in our city’s history,” said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.
“The rapid and fair disposition of these cases has brought justice to those wronged by a handful of rogue officers,” he said.
The Rampart corruption scandal once involved the investigation of 82 incidents involving 50 officers and the reversal of more than 100 criminal convictions tainted by police misconduct.
Racial profiling, excessive force and the Rampart scandal caused the federal government in 2001 to impose a consent decree that mandated reforms in the department.
The payout is considerably less than the $125 million projected in the early stages of the scandal by Mayor James Hahn, who was then the city attorney.
Despite the criminal backgrounds of many of the plaintiffs, city lawyers concluded when reviewing the records of the officers involved that more than three-fourths of the cases were too risky to let them proceed to trial
Delgadillo said in a statement that he was “pleased” the setlements came in well under the $125 million reserved for that purpose five years ago. As a result, $10 million in each of the next five fiscal years will be transferred from the Rampart reserve to other accounts, preferably to hire and train new officers, he said.
The average settlement was $400,000. Javier Francisco Ovando, a gang member who was shot by police and left paralyzed, received the largest settlement — $15 million. He had been sentenced to 23 years in prison after two officers testified he was armed when he was shot. His conviction was eventually overturned.
As a result of the scandal, more than a dozen officers left the force. Some were fired and others resigned amid investigations of alleged misconduct.
Many of the allegations were made by ex-officer Rafael Perez, who later emerged as the main culprit after his accusations against other officers were largely disproved.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company