LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Jury selection is expected to start this morning in civil litigation brought by a Whittier man against the city of Los Angeles and its former police chief involving allegations of official misconduct.
Attorneys for Daniel Garza contend that ex-Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck should be held liable for the actions of an officer who was found to have used excessive force without provocation and acted with malice against their client.
In 2017, a federal jury determined that Los Angeles police officer Mario Cardona used unreasonable force on May 14, 2015, in an off-duty attack on Garza in which the lawman asserted his police authority. Garza had broken up with Cardona's stepdaughter before the incident.
V. James DeSimone, Garza's attorney, alleged that Cardona punched the then-Cal State Los Angeles student in the face and forced him to the ground; video allegedly showed Cardona using a pain compliance wrist-lock when Daniel was handcuffed, not resisting and prone on the ground.
The jury awarded Garza $210,000 and U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson approved another $663,000 in attorney's fees. Wilson initially ruled that only Cardona would be held liable and dropped Beck and the LAPD from the suit. The city refused to indemnify Cardona and he filed for bankruptcy. Beck promoted the officer to sergeant.
However, last week, Wilson concluded that “as a matter of law that former Chief Beck was the final policymaker with respect to the particular issues in this case” and that 30-year-old Garza could seek damages for harm he allegedly suffered when Beck sent him a letter informing him that the investigation showed Cardona's conduct to have been lawful, DeSimone said.
In papers filed in Los Angeles federal court, attorneys for the city contend that Garza cannot show that Beck had final policymaking authority with respect to Cardona's promotion and the ex-chief cannot be held liable for any alleged official misconduct.