Damages Against Ex-LA Sheriff Rise to $1.1M

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A federal judge has entered a $1.1 million judgment in favor of veteran Los Angeles County Sheriff Department officials who accused former Sheriff Leroy Baca of retaliation because of their support for his rival.
     In early 2014, eight of Baca’s officers sued him in state court claiming Baca had compiled a “hit list” of officers who he believed were aligned with then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, a potential rival for his job. The case was later transferred to Federal Court.
     One of the officials, Capt. Charles Antuna, said in his state court lawsuit that he was transferred out of the department’s Inmate Reception Center after he went on a fishing trip with Tanaka. He claimed that he was given a new assignment that increased the distance of his commute by 200 miles per day.
     After a jury trial in late 2015 Antuna, David Waters, Rocio Martinez, Kevin Hebert, Casey Dowling, Robert Wheat, Louis Duran and Robert Tubbs were awarded close to $800,000, including $45,000 each in punitive damages, on their First Amendment retaliation claims against Baca.
     In a third amended judgment issued Sept. 2, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald confirmed that damages had risen to $1.1 million.
     Baca faces the stiffer judgment because Martinez was granted a new trial this year to sort out noneconomic damages, which the court mistakenly left off a special verdict form during the first trial.
     After a three-day trial in June, the jury awarded Martinez past and present economic damages of $320,000. Including, past, present and future medical damages of $3,000 and punitive damages of $45,000, Martinez’s total damages award now stands at $368,000.
     Baca, who retired from his scandal-plagued department in 2014, is currently preparing for a trial scheduled later his year to determine if he obstructed an FBI investigation into civil rights abuses at two county jails.
     If convicted, Baca faces a maximum of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, 10 years for obstruction and up to five years in prison on a false statement charge.
     In June, Tanaka was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the scheme. Twenty current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials have been convicted in connection with the crimes, according to federal prosecutors.

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