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Most-Wanted List Lawsuit Dismissed

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - An Oakland man who claims he spent six months on the city's Most Wanted list without cause has no case, a federal judge ruled.

Chau Van sued the city , its Police Chief Howard Jordan, and Officers Johnna Watson and Cynthia Perkins in March 2103, alleging defamation, false arrest and imprisonment and constitutional violations.

He claimed that on Feb. 7, 2012, a friend called him and told him KTVU-TV was broadcasting his name and picture as "one of Oakland's Most Wanted criminals" and reporting him responsible for a shooting.

After hiding out in his friend's house for a week, Van went with an attorney to turn himself in to resolve the mistake at the Oakland Police Department. He was interrogated and then sent to Santa Rita Jail, where he was held in maximum security for 36 to 48 hours, according to U.S. District Judge Spero's summary of the case.

Van claimed that he was "a law-abiding citizen with no history of violence."

But Spero, in dismissing the case, found that Van was involved in an assault outside of Oakland's Fortune Restaurant on Dec. 9, 2011.

Tiffany and Andrew Nguyen claimed in separate police interviews that their brother Quyen had been violently attacked outside the restaurant that night. Andrew, who claimed to have witnessed the attack, said a group of men punched and kicked his brother and hit him with a baseball bat.

When police presented them with photo arrays, the ruling states, both Andrew and Quyen identified Van as one of the attackers.

Van's account of the incident was that he was trying to break up a fight between the Nguyen brothers and his friend Richard Lei, and he fought back to defend himself.

The lead investigator, Officer Hector Jimenez, prepared an affidavit in support of a warrant for Van's arrest on Dec. 19, 2011.

Police conceded that the Most Wanted list mistakenly associated Van with a shooting, but they moved for summary judgment on all of Van's claims.

Van sought to amend the complaint to include Jimenez, whom he says was the officer who interrogated him when he turned himself in, and Capt. Anthony Rachal, claiming that depositions by the originally named defendants revealed Rachal's direct involvement in the construction of the city's Most Wanted list.

Spero denied Van's motion, finding that Van's attorney showed "a lack of diligence in pursuing discovery."

Van's motion is unduly delayed, would cause undue prejudice and would be ultimately futile, Spero wrote.

He granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and closed the case, dismissing Van's claims in their entirety.

Regarding Van's claim that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested without probable cause, Spero said the defendants' conduct and the alleged constitutional violation is "simply too attenuated" to hold up in court.

He said that Van's claim of a First Amendment violation was groundless, because he has not "offered any evidence (or even alleged) that he engaged in any constitutionally protected speech."

Van's claim that the city inadequately trained its police force was dismissed for insufficient evidence, as was his claim of false arrest and imprisonment. Spero wrote that there is no evidence that the named defendants "directed or instigated the arrest."

"At most, they played a part in initiating a chain of events that eventually led to plaintiff's self-surrender and arrest by Officer Jimenez," Spero wrote.

Van was represented by DeWitt Marcellus Lacy, with the Law Offices of John L. Burris in Oakland. The defendants were represented by James Hodgkins, with the Oakland City Attorney's Office.

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