Fullerton Cops Win Federal Lawsuit Alleging Police Harassment

Categories: Court, Crime-iny

Fullerton PD logo 92.jpg
Fullerton PD: We can't be wrong; we wear badges
An Orange County jury this afternoon gave a proverbial shoulder shrug to a lawsuit claiming that Fullerton cops singled out a citizen for physical harassment and fabricated criminal charges because he used his iPhone to film alleged police brutality in 2010.

The unanimous verdict from a panel of five women and three men--who could have easily been corralled for civic duty while shopping at Fashion Island--came after about only two hours of deliberations following this morning's closing arguments.

Garo Mardirossian, the veteran lawyer for plaintiff Veth Mam, had passionately urged jurors to "send a message" to police that citizens have a right to record their conduct and not face retaliation from "abusive" cops.

"[Mam] saw an injustice, took out his camera and began filming," said Mardirossian, who compared his client to the unknown but famous Chinese man who risked his own life by standing in front of a line of tanks during 1989 communist brutality in Tiananmen Square. "Veth Mam was that tank man in downtown Fullerton."

He also blasted cops for "their code of silence" to protect one another from accountability for lying and cautioned the jury that if they rule against Mam, they are giving dirty cops in Orange County an unmistakable signal.

"They are going to think, 'We can get away with [corruption],'" said Mardirossian. During his closing argument to the jury, Dana A. Fox, an attorney for officers Frank Nguyen and Jonathan W. Miller, ridiculed Mardirossian's attempt to "play on your emotions" and shamelessly linked his clients with another unrelated event: police work in the recent Boston Marathon bombings.

Fox--a superb, commanding speaker--said the problem for Mam was that he didn't obey numerous officer commands to "back up" from the scene and that his lack of compliance created his own troubles with cops, who were rightfully worried about a crowd getting out of control.

Steven J. Rothans, the lawyer for Kenton Hampton--known for his participation in the police beating death of Kelly Thomas in July 2011--urged jurors to put themselves in the shoes of the officers who, despite concocting wildly falsified police reports to make themselves heroes, had truly been motivated, he said, by one passion: "preventing a riot" on the night of the incident.

Using the deep voice of a movie-trailer announcer and the cadence of a Baptist preacher a week away from paying rent, Rothans argued that despite police errors (and there were many), the cops acted "reasonably." He dared jurors to compare the credibility of Mam, who was found innocent in 2012 of all of the criminal charges filed against him, to the officers, who tried to send the innocent man to prison--and still don't seem the least bit regretful.

Like Fox, Rothans also tied the Fullerton cops in this case to the "first responders" in Boston, who are "special folks" who run toward explosions.

U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker eventually told the jurors to disregard both Tiananmen Square and Boston bombing references.

Having covered notoriously pro-cop Orange County juries for nearly two decades, I knew what the two cop lawyers from Los Angeles might not have fully appreciated until today: They really didn't need to break a sweat.

This is, after all, a county in which law-enforcement officers can stand feet away from a pretrial inmate being viciously beaten to death for 30 or 40 minutes by a massive group of fellow inmates, absurdly claim they saw and heard nothing, and escape any legal culpability.

This is also the place where a jury let a patrol cop get away with ejaculating on a woman's blouse during a late-night, illegal traffic stop.

A subdued Mam didn't look too pleased by today's outcome. He declined to comment on the verdict. But Hampton--the cop accused of attacking him for the filming--happily hummed in the hallway inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.

Go HERE to see my pretrial coverage of the Mam incident.


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23 comments
simon-johnson
simon-johnson

This sucks even more for me since I was in the jury pool. But it all falls down to the evidence I didn't see. 

@paullucas: it is true that the the NH legislature passed a law allowing the defense to bring up nullification, but CA did just to opposite. Prosecutors got a law passed that forces judges to ask jurors under oath the question "Will you obey my instructions about the law?"  Lie to judge and you get perjury. It's a fully locked up system here in CA


bel.mon
bel.mon

santa ana cops are the worst and i got proof

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Cops - 1

Cop Haters - 0

carlashworth
carlashworth

memory refresh, in 2008 Fullerton Police Officer Rincon molested female detainees in his squad car, suspicious jail suicide of Gochenour, arrested for drunk driving by Fullerton Police Officer Vincent Mater. Gochenour was found hanging in his cell afew hours later . Mater intentionally destroyed his police issued digital recorder that would have recorded any interactions between Officer Mater and Gochenour that fatal night. And let us not forget the horrific video detailing the Fullerton police officers using their bataons, tasers to beat homeless, malnourished Kelly Thomas to death. But wait, it gets better. The Orange County Human Relations Commission executive director, Rusty Kennedy, who promotes his commission as the tax funded county commission commmitted to righting and preventing local law enforcement from abusing the civil rights of OC's community, is a Fullerton homeboy who had the Fullerton Police Chief Pat McKinley serve on his commission as a representative of law enforcement. why the same year Fullerton Police Officer Rincon was molesting his female detainees, Rusty Kennedy gave Fullerton PD an award for their "exemplary" police-community relations.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

Terrible decision. Juries need proper instructions. I believe  New Hampshire last year passed a law that allows juries to be instructed on the concept of nullifying the law. That is, even if they find the defendant guilty they can find him not guilty as they do not believe the punishment or the law itself are of merit.

midwesttohb
midwesttohb

What insightful comments for a reporter who spent 2 hours in the courtroom yesterday. Maybe Mr Moxley should have sat for 6 days listening to testimony prior to writing this obviously one sided article. Now I remember why I don't read the OC Weekly. And why its free.

waltersmall
waltersmall

This is, after all, a county where law enforcement officers can stand feet away from a pre-trial inmate being viciously beaten to death for 30 or 40 minutes by a massive group of fellow inmates, absurdly claim they saw and heard nothing, and escape any legal culpability. 

And this is, after all, the publication( OC Weekly) that just plain makes shit up to sell ads promoting sex slaves and pot shops. 

RonaldMexico
RonaldMexico

@ltpar That flag behind you, do you even understand the first thing about what it means? Or are you more apt to have a North Korean flag behind you, as you know cops in North Korea are perfect and 100% right and powerful. I think you would like North Korea better than here, that way you can praise glorious leader and kiss tons of boots. 

simon-johnson
simon-johnson

@midwesttohb How's your math? That trial started on the 9th and was expected to go 8 days bringing it to the 22nd (Fridays don't count). As the judge said these lawyers have a good track record for getting the time right. They did. It took 8 days as the they said. Had you already made up your mind by day six, or were you even there at all?

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@midwesttohbBesides being a coward who feels the need to hide behind a fake name, you're a liar. That's why no matter how many times you bark as if you know something nobody will take you seriously. But, alas, I will give you a hint for the next time you want to weigh in: You can't reasonably claim you don't read a publication while angrily commenting on coverage you sought out to read in that same publication. Errrrr. Duh. Your comments are additional proof that before badges and guns are distributed to cops, POST must require successful completion of an elementary common sense course.

seekingtruth
seekingtruth

@midwesttohb I invite anyone who sat through that trial and knows the evidence to give a rational explaination for the verdict. It's the apex of injustice.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@RonaldMexico @ltpar I would say that I have a far greater understanding of the American flag and what it stands for, than you will ever have.  In adition, I have put my money where my mouth is.  Can you say the same?  I along with many others have spent our entire adult life defending the Constitution and that Flag, so that ass holes like yourself can write trash on the internet and live the good life.  Fortunately, 99.9% of the people in this country are not like you, or I would have chosen a different occupation.  Take that North Korean flag and stick it up your ass.   

midwesttohb
midwesttohb

6 full days of testimony. My math is fine.

midwesttohb
midwesttohb

You are welcome to read the transcripts and decide for yourself. I wouldn't dictate anyone's opinion to them. Happy reading.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@GustavoArellano @midwesttohb - Yea Gustavo it is that damn Justice System again.  It just doesn't always put away the guys we think need to go and that pisses us off.  Been there myself a couple of times over the years.  Right, wrong or indifferent, those Fullerton Officers were found not guilty and in Federal Court that says a lot.  They don't mess around like the State Court revolving doors do.  Don't like the System.......change it. 

midwesttohb
midwesttohb

If you had been in that courtroom for 6 days listening to testimony, I think you would have a different opinion. These were not dirty cops. The video online tells only part of the story, and the report above certainly doesn't fill in the remainder. Its easy to give opinions about things when you don't have the full story.

RonaldMexico
RonaldMexico

Oh so you took an oath then to defend the constitution? Yeah? Too bad I can't ask you face to face to see your answer. Because I know you would be a deer in the headlights - what is the 9th through the 15th admendments? Yeah scramble for Google, you never defended shit you just did what you were told boot licker.

Let me explain something you servile traiter to the oath, just because you give a monkey a flag to wave doesn't mean he understands freedom or sacrifice.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@GustavoArellano @midwesttohb - I guess we could say the same thing about the United States Congress and the Obama Administration?  The title "Cesspool of Fools" seems to fit that bunch?

midwesttohb
midwesttohb

Well, that is just an ignorant statement. Whatever you chose to believe.

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