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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Nixes RICO Claim Against Sheriff’s Dept.

(CN) - The 9th Circuit dismissed a racketeering class action that accused the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department of keeping people in custody too long and then coercing them into accepting $500 to settle their over-detention claims.

Lead plaintiff J. Avalos claimed he spent more than two months in jail after being arrested on an Orange County warrant for domestic abuse. On the day of his release, a deputy sheriff in street clothes allegedly had him sign some papers, though Avalos doesn't speak English.

Avalos said he didn't understand that the papers were an offer to settle his over-detention claim for $500.

According to Avalos, the offer was based on his weekly salary as a janitor. He said he received a check for $500 and cashed it.

Avalos filed suit on behalf of himself and more than a hundred others who had been detained to long and were "fraudulently, oppressively, extortionately, or with threats duped into compromising their monetary claims for sums far less than those claims are worth."

The lawsuit alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution and the RICO Act, an anti-racketeering law.

In August 2007, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims, and the 9th Circuit affirmed.

The three-judge panel in Pasadena said Avalos failed to establish that the officers or the sheriff's department have a "policy, practice or custom of over-detaining inmates" needed to allege civil rights violations.

"Avalos has failed to allege any improper acts by the named defendants that could be construed as constituting a pattern of racketeering activity and he failed to show any harm to a business or property interest," Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote.

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