One family refuses to back down from their lawsuit alleging police abuse despite being offered a “substantial amount” to settle.
I’ve often noted how unfair it is, when police departments are successfully sued for the misbehavior of law enforcement officers, that the taxpayers are strapped with paying the victims, and the police officers sometimes suffer nothing.
This is much more likely to happen when the family agrees to “settle” out of court.
In fact, I have to wonder how often a family settles and agrees, as a condition of the settlement, to stop publicizing (or to never publicize, even) what the police did.
I ask that because recently the Martinez family was offered a “substantial” sum of money to make their lawsuit against San Diego County go away. They refused it. The San Diego Union-Times reports,
The deputy accused of assaulting and pepper-spraying a man with Down Syndrome in 2012 admitted under oath that he had no reasonable suspicion that the man was involved in a crime when he initially tried to stop him on a Vista street, according to court documents.
The admission was made during a deposition taken in December as part of the lawsuit filed on behalf of the man, Antonio Martinez. The suit alleges that Deputy Jeffrey Guy pepper-sprayed and beat the 4-foot, 11-inch Martinez when he failed to obey the deputy’s orders to stop as he walked down a Vista street.
The sheriff’s department has said Guy believed Martinez might be a suspect in a domestic violence incident that had been reported nearby and forcibly arrested Martinez after the man acted strangely and ignored the deputy’s instructions to stop.
Trial is set for July in Vista Superior Court.
The suit, filed in 2014, alleges a number of wrongdoing — including battery, false arrest and civil rights violations — against Martinez, who was 21 at the time of the incident but has the intellectual capacity of a 7-year-old.
The Free Thought Project, which has been following the story, adds,
the deputy “looked Tony in the face and then unloaded a canister of highly irritating pepper spray into Tony’s face and eyes,” beat him with a weighted baton, slammed his face into the pavement and cuffed him. While the beating was taking place, Martinez’ sisters were screaming at the officer that their brother has down syndrome, unsuccessfully attempting to appeal to the officer’s humanity- something that he clearly lacks.
After Martinez was handcuffed, other deputies jumped in, and Martinez was taken to the hospital, detained, and then jailed for 5 hours; essentially kidnapped. He was charged with resisting arrest despite the fact that there was no reason to stop him in the first place. Deputy Guy testified that this was necessary to “document” the incident.
Free Thought Project also reports that the Martinez family has said they are willing to settle out of court. They only have three conditions:
They wanted the department to apologize, release their policy on dealing with the mentally disabled, and have Deputy Guy volunteer for the Special Olympics.
The sheriff’s department would rather go to trial.
To repeat my questions: How often have police or sheriffs’ departments settled these accusations in a way that keeps them quiet? How often are taxpayers forced to pony up to cover over the abuse of one of the same taxpayers? How do we know?