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Piccuta Law Group Obtains $600,000 Settlement Against Monterey County Sheriff Deputy In Civil Rights Lawsuit for Police Brutality and Excessive Force
On August 28, 2019, Charles Tony Piccuta of the Piccuta Law Group, LLP attended a settlement conference in San Jose, California conducted by the honorable judge Virginia DeMarchi. The settlement conference was for a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Piccuta Law Group, LLP against a deputy of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office. The lawsuit alleged that the firm’s client was the victim of police brutality when excessive force was used on him in the summer of 2016.
The Allegations of the Excessive Force Lawsuit filed by Our Monterey Police Brutality Attorneys
The police brutality lawsuit alleged the following facts. The firm’s client was a caretaker at a rural property in south Monterey County. A dispute arose between the client and his neighbor regarding a water right on the property the client managed. The neighbor arranged for a Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputy that he was friendly with to assist him. The deputy and the neighbor went to the property to confront the client.
At the property, the client explained to the deputy that he was simply the caretaker following the owner’s instructions. However, the deputy, without probable cause or justification, rushed onto the property and threw the client to the ground. Once on the ground, the deputy dragged the client around by his left wrist, pressed a taser to his face and neck and then arrested him. At no time did the client say anything aggressive or do anything that could be considered non-compliant.
The deputy then authored a police report with a false accounting of what happened. However, the police report made little sense. It claimed that the client turned around in the deputy’s direction with his cell phone in hand. The deputy claimed he feared that the cell phone could be used as a weapon. The deputy further claimed that he saw a weed eater in the truck belonging to the client and was fearful that it could be used as a weapon as well.
The client injured his wrist when the deputy dragged him around by it. The client required two surgeries on his wrist. One of the surgeries included the installation of hardware. The client also sustained a back injury. The wrist and back injuries made it difficult for the client to perform at his job which involved lots of manual labor and physical tasks.
The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and deputy claimed that the use of force was justified. They claimed that the situation rapidly escalated and that the deputy was forced to make split second decisions. They further claimed that the client was enraged and aggressive and caused the deputy take the action he took. They also claimed that the deputy was by himself in a rural part of Monterey County and had to be cautious and protect himself. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office performed an Internal Affairs Investigation and concluded that the use of force was appropriate.
The Civil Rights Claims Alleged in the Police Excessive Force Lawsuit
The civil rights lawsuit the firm filed asserted claims for excessive force and police brutality. Specifically, the firm alleged that the client’s constitutional right to be free from illegal search and seizure and the unreasonable use of force by law enforcement was violated. This right arises under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and guarantees all citizens this protection. If a government employee, such as a police officer, sheriff deputy or other local law enforcement officer, violates this right, a person can recover for his or her injuries. Violations of the United States Constitution and its amendments by local government employees or actors, are asserted under a federal statute—42 United States Code Section 1983. These claims are often referred to as 1983 claims.
Violations of the United States Constitution and its amendments by local government employees or actors, are asserted under a federal statute—42 United States Code Section 1983.
The firm also filed claims under the Bane Act and Ralph Act. The Bane Act is a California law that is set forth in California Civil Code Section 52.1. It is often referred to as California’s Civil Rights statute. The Bane Act allows a person to file a lawsuit against a local law enforcement officer if that officer used threats, intimidation or coercion to interfere with a person’s enjoyment of their rights secured by both the California and United States Constitution. In other words, a person can sue a police officer or other law enforcement officer if that officer used wrongful means to prevent someone from doing something he or she had the right to do or forced them to do something he or she was not required to. Any time a person is the victim of police brutality in California, he or she may assert a Bane Act claim.
The Ralph Act is also a California law. It is set forth in California Civil Code Section 51.7. The Ralph Act is similar to the Bane Act in that it prohibits violence or intimidation by the threat of violence by police and other law enforcement officers. However, the Ralph Act has a discrimination component. It prohibits this type of conduct when exercised because of someone’s race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or disability. In other words, if violence, intimidation or threats of violence are used on someone for a discriminatory reason, the Ralph Act protects his or her rights.
In the case our firm handled, the deputy and the neighbor were both white and the client was Hispanic. The client believed that the deputy acted the way he did because the client was of Mexican origin. As such, we asserted a Ralph Act claim.
In addition to the above claims, the firm also filed state law claims against the deputy. Those claims included assault, battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. The civil rights lawsuit sought damages for pain and suffering, emotional and psychological consequences, past and future medical expenses and future lost earnings.
The $600,000 Settlement Obtained by Our Monterey Police Excessive Force and Civil Rights Lawyers
At the settlement conference, the firm was able to negotiate a final settlement of $600,000 for the client. In exchange, the client dismissed his lawsuit and the opportunity to present his case to a jury for a decision. The amount of money the client received is life-changing. In addition, the client now feels vindicated. By the County paying the money it did, it suggests that the County believed the client over its deputy and were afraid to take the case to trial.
The result would not have been achieved without skillful lawyering, careful planning and hard work. The Piccuta Law Group spent in excess of 200 hours working on the case to achieve the result. The effort of the firm was well worth it for the client. The client sent the following message to the firm after receiving his portion of the settlement funds. The message showcases how thankful the client was for the hard work the firm put into his case.
Contact our Monterey Civil Rights Lawyers about Your Police Excessive Force Case
If you, a friend or a loved one was the victim of police brutality, wrongful arrest, excessive force, First Amendment retaliation or any other civil rights violation, contact one of our Monterey civil rights lawyers today. Our firm handles civil rights cases involving police excessive force throughout all of California and Arizona. We regularly handle matters in other counties and, of course, handle matters on the central coast and in Monterey County. Our firm is currently handling several matters against the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and City of Salinas Police Department. Contact one of our civil rights lawyers today for a free consultation.
About the author: The content on this page was written by Monterey civil rights lawyer and personal injury attorney Charles “Tony” Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout California and Arizona. He is a winning trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is AV Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project, Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association and Scottsdale Bar Association, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.