Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 6, 2002


Page 3


Claims Board Settles Three Lawsuits, Recommends Settlement Of Fourth Alleging Misconduct by Sheriff’s Deputies


By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer


The county claims board has settled three lawsuits and authorized a proposed settlement for another suit, all of which involved alleged misconduct by sheriff’s deputies.

The county will pay $140,500 to three plaintiffs and stand to pay $387,300 in another proposed settlement if it is approved by the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Feb. 19.

The $387,300 proposed settlement recommended by the board Monday stems from a lawsuit brought by Carl Hilman Ross, which alleges county sheriff’s deputies used excessive force and violated Ross’ civil rights when they stopped him for traffic violations January 9, 2000 at 1060 West 110th St., northwest of the interchange of the 110 and 105 freeways.

Ross complied with the deputies’ requests to exit his car after being stopped, but the woman in the passenger’s seat would not get out, and a deputy used pepper spray on her after she became irate, according to the summary of facts presented by Assistant County Counsel Lou Aguilar in a memorandum to the claims board.

Ross then attempted to help the woman and was struck in the face three to five times by a deputy’s fist, and his torso and legs were struck five to eight times with a baton and flashlight, the same memorandum says.

Ross claims to have lost two teeth and broken two ribs as a result of the incident.

On January 24, 2002, the Sheriff’s Department initiated an Internal Affairs investigation into the incident, which must be concluded within a year’s time, Sgt. Reginald Gautt of Internal Affairs said.

Gautt refused to comment on the investigation, saying that the current pending lawsuit bars him from doing so.

In other settlements, the county will pay Eddie Valle $27,500 for falsely arresting and then imprisoning him for almost a month on a warrant for a man with the same age and birthday.

The county will also pay $38,000 to Audrey Okuma who was arrested during a raid of a suspected methamphetamine distribution center.

A plastic baggy of amphetamines found at the site was mistakenly marked as having been found on Okuma.

Four days after her arrest, a sheriff’s detective noticed the mistake and Okuma should have been released that day since the District Attorney dropped charges. However, Okuma spent another week in jail because the order requiring her to appear in court on the charges was never taken out of the system.

In another settlement, the county will pay Sue Ellen Torres $75,000 in a lawsuit resulting from a seemingly innocent trip to Costco gone bad.

Torres was shopping for a birthday cake and other food items for a party that same night celebrating her son’s 21st birthday, when she took a sheriff’s deputy’s shopping cart that held the deputy’s purse.

The deputy caught up with Torres and told her to stop, but Torres continued to walk away with the car, until the deputy yelled “Hey! Hey, that’s my purse!”

Torres alleges she took the shopping cart by accident and that the deputy used a “chokehold” to detain her, which the deputy denies.

Torres was arrested at the store and Torres’ family abandoned the birthday party and waited until four o’clock in the morning for her release.

Since there were no witnesses to the event, the criminal complaint was dismissed before trial.

According to the evaluation by Aguilar in a memorandum to the claims board:

“The accidental movement of a shopping cart is a common event to which most jurors can relate, making it likely that a jury would be sympathetic to the plaintiff.”


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company