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Fired Officer’s Lawsuit|Heads for Jury Trial

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A jury must decide if a former Richmond, Calif., police officer who accused the police chief of hitting on him was wrongfully terminated, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Former police officer Thomas Hauschild sued the Bay Area city of Richmond and its police chief, Christopher Magnus, in April of this year, claiming Magnus sexually harassed him and then fired him for complaining about it.

The police department says Hauschild's termination was the result of an internal investigation prompted by a domestic dispute between Hauschild and his ex-wife.

After the city moved for partial summary judgment in June, Hauschild agreed to drop two of his six claims against the city. He withdrew claims that he was sexually harassed and that the city violated his rights under the California constitution.

In Friday's ruling, U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that a jury must decide whether the city improperly relied on evidence of Hauschild's prior conduct when it decided to fire him in December 2013.

The state's Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights forbids punishing officers for acts that occurred more than one year ago to "ensure an officer will not be faced with a lingering investigation," according to the ruling.

During a yearlong investigation prompted by a domestic dispute in September 2012, Hauschild was questioned about other domestic incidents that occurred in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to the ruling.

Magnus, who oversaw Hauschild's disciplinary hearing, stated in a memorandum that the officer's "six years of domestic abuse" conclusively proved he was the primary aggressor during the dispute with his ex-wife on Sept. 23, 2012.

Hauschild claims that evidence proves he was improperly fired for conduct that occurred far longer than one year ago.

However, the city says the termination was based solely on the September 2012 incident and subsequent findings. It pointed to a statement in Magnus' ruling saying the evidence showed Hauschild was the primary aggressor in the domestic dispute, "even without any consideration of the prior allegations of domestic abuse," according to court records.

Magnus said he also decided to fire Hauschild for three other reasons - because he allegedly placed a condom on his ex-wife's doorknob to "humiliate and intimidate her," was found to be in possession of eight unregistered firearms, and lied to investigators about the domestic dispute.

The judge found that it was unclear whether Hauschild's prior history of alleged domestic violence played a role in the decision to fire him.

"Defendant's assertion, that the old conduct played no role in the termination decision, may very well be true," Alsup wrote in the six-page ruling. "That, however, must be determined by a jury."

The judge also rejected Hauschild's objections to a declaration submitted by Lt. Brian Dickerson, finding that although the city did not list him as a witness, the declaration was filed before the deadline to disclose witnesses.

In addition, Alsup denied Hauschild's motion to strike Dickerson's statement that the Alameda County Sheriff Department's investigation of the September 2012 domestic dispute ended "sometime in October 2012."

A jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 15, 2016.

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