Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Board of Supervisors Agrees to $2.5 Million in Settlement Payments
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The county Board of Supervisors yesterday agreed to pay more than $2.5 million in lawsuit settlements, including $275,000 to a Long Beach man whose criminal case made national news when he was jolted in court with a 50,000-volt stun belt.
Ronnie Hawkins, a career criminal, was shocked by sheriff’s deputies during his sentencing hearing in 1998 when Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, now a Superior Court judge, ordered the jolt after Hawkins interrupted her repeatedly and violated her orders not to tell jurors that he was HIV-positive or that he was facing a 25-year-to-life sentence.
Hawkins had been fitted with the stun belt prior to the hearing at the request of the Sheriff’s Department after he had threatened violence while he was in custody, county lawyers wrote.
Hawkins was awarded a second trial and was convicted by a second jury of stealing $265 worth of aspirin. The conviction was his third strike under California’s three strikes law. Hawkins is currently appealing his 25 years to life sentence.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the belts may no longer be used to subdue defendants who are just being verbally disruptive, but they can be used on defendants who are flight risks or are a threat to others in the courtroom.
The board also agreed to two wrongful death settlements involving patients who died after developing infections following surgeries performed at county hospitals.
The husband and three children of Patricia Hernandez were awarded $700,000 after Hernandez died in June 1999 after undergoing a hysterectomy at County/USC Medical Center. Hernandez developed an infection following the surgery, but medical professionals did not perform the necessary surgery to discover the infection’s source in time, county lawyers wrote. The county also agreed to waive the hospital’s bill of $375,562 as part of the settlement.
The wife and two minor sons of Santiago Rosas were awarded $342,500 after Rosas died following gallbladder surgery at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. The county will also waive the $35,710 hospital bill.
Marquita Waters, a professional singer, was given $160,000 for the damage she received to her throat after a breathing tube was put in place during wrist surgery at County/USC Medical Center.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company