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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Alarming Tale of L.A. Sheriff’s Officers

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A beautician who asked the L.A. sheriff to protect her from a stalker claims in court that his officers assaulted, defamed and falsely arrested her on "sham" charges of plotting to murder a rival beautician.

Dawn DaLuise, a skin care specialist, sued Sheriff Jim McDonnell and his investigator Steve McCauley, Capt. Shaun Mathers, and Sgt. Steve Rohrbach on Friday in Federal Court Friday.

DaLuise says she sought the sheriff's help from a stalker who made a Craigslist ad claiming she gave free sex services at her house.

DaLuise owned Skin Refinery, a salon in West Hollywood that catered to celebrities.

"Starting approximately mid-August 2013 DaLuise became a victim of a series of sickening incidents," the complaint states. "It started with her tires being slashed, then lewd photo shopped flyers of DaLuise were being scattered up and down Santa Monica Boulevard that included her name, phone number and address inviting men to stop by her place of work for free sex services; ads were posted on Craigslist offering free sex services at her home address including rape fantasies wherein she allegedly was requesting men to break down her door after 10 p.m. at night (which lead to approximately five incidences of men coming to her home); lewd stickers were placed over her private designated parking space that read 'Whoever said money can't buy happiness forgot about prostitution' and 'Cunt."

DaLuise says the stalker also sent flyers to her family and church members claiming she was being incestuous with her daughters, and sent lewd messages to her daughters as well.

Fearing for her own safety and her family's, DaLuise says, she repeatedly sought help from the North Hollywood police for around six months "with no results."

After a church friend submitted a request for help to the Sheriffs Department on her behalf, DaLuise met with defendant McCauley in late February 2014, according to the complaint.

But instead of finding the stalker, DaLuise says, McCauley on March 3 issued an arrest warrant against her for soliciting murder.

"This arrest warrant was a result of McCauley having one conversation with Edward Feinstein ('Feinstein') who told McCauley that DaLuise had requested that he engage in the cyberstalking to make it look like a business competitor, Gabriel Suarez, was stalking her," the complaint states. "Feinstein also told McCauley that DaLuise was working in collusion with him by slashing DaLuise's own tires, denigrating DaLuise's own children in lewd, X-rated emails and assisting in stalking DaLuise herself. Feinstein also provided McCauley with a text message sent to him by DaLuise and presumably told McCauley that DaLuise had hired ex Detroit quarterback Chris Geile ('Geile') to kill Suarez. Equipped with these preposterous and unsubstantiated allegations from Feinstein, and without checking Feinstein's criminal background, when he had a long rap sheet, and without a proper investigation of the allegations and without probable cause McCauley obtained an arrest warrant for DaLuise."

Feinstein and Geile are not parties to the complaint.

DaLuise says she was arrested on March 5, 2014 and spent more than 10 months in jail until a jury acquitted her on Jan. 22.

She claims that McCauley and defendant Mather went forward with the bogus charges against her despite interviewing Geile, who told them that DaLuise never approached him with a murder-for-hire plot, and that the officers defamed her by stating on national television that they believed Geile's story.

She claims it was shown at trial that none of the 6,000 text messages the officers searched on DaLuise's iPhone linked her with Feinstein. One of the two messages supposedly soliciting the murder of Gabriel Suarez ended with "LOL," indicating that it was a joke, DaLuise says in the complaint.

"This is one of the worst cases of injustice that I have seen in the 27 years I've been practicing law," DaLuise's attorney Dorinda Myers told Courthouse News.

"Law enforcement is tasked with a difficult and important job. We recognize that sometimes they get things wrong even when they do their job well. However, in this case there is no excuse for the complete incompetence of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. That incompetence shattered an innocent woman's life."

DaLuise says in the complaint that the District Attorney's Office felt pressured by the extensive media coverage of her case to go to trial to protect the deputies from liability. She claims representatives with the office urged her to accept a plea deal for release from jail in exchange for admitting to a felony, but she refused.

After arresting DaLuise, McCauley finally conducted a proper investigation and learned that Feinstein was her stalker, according to the complaint. But despite ample evidence on Feinstein's computer and iPhone that he had harassed DaLuise and several other women, no charges have been filed against him, the complaint states.

As a result of her wrongful imprisonment, DaLuise says, she missed one daughter's graduation and wedding and did not get to see her before she left for the Air Force. She says she also lost her businesses and all of her assets, and is unable to reopen her salon because landlords and several of her former clients refuse to do business with her until Feinstein is in jail.

The sheriff's department did not return requests for comment by the close of business hours Monday.

DaLuise seeks compensatory and punitive damages for false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, defamation and civil rights violations.

She is represented by Dorinda Myers of Palm Desert.

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