MODESTO -- Modesto has agreed to pay $20,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was the victim of false arrest, negligence and that his civil rights were violated by the police.
Modesto resident Jeff Perine's attorney filed the lawsuit in September in federal court in Fresno, naming Detective Eric Beffa and the city as defendants.
Modesto City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood confirmed that a $20,000 settlement has been reached. She said Friday that her office was waiting for a signed copy in the mail from Perine's attorney.
Perine, 33, is a teacher with a California Youth Authority school in Stockton and the son of longtime Modesto police officer Dave Perine and the nephew of retired Modesto police Lt. Mike Perine. He has been a candidate for Modesto City Council.
"It was the last thing I ever thought I had to do, to sue the city I was born and raised in," Perine said. "But I need to restore my dignity after this terrifying experience, and I hope that this does not happen to anyone else."
Perine also filed a complaint with the Modesto Police Department against Beffa and his immediate supervisors.
Interim Police Chief Gene Balentine wrote Perine in August that a police investigation had "sustained" Perine's complaint. That meant the employee had committed the act or acts of misconduct alleged in the complaint and the employee had failed to perform a required duty.
Balentine said Saturday he could not comment about the investigation because it is a personnel matter. But he said his department takes allegations against its employees seriously.
"We try to provide the best service we can to the community," he said, speaking in general. "But sometimes we will fall short of that. And when that happens, it is up to us to investigate the reasons behind it
and then deal with it. We hold our officers accountable."
Beffa could not be reached for comment.
Stanislaus County prosecutors charged Perine in May 2011 with felony burglary, receiving stolen property and using someone else's credit card stemming from the April 2010 theft of a wallet from a locker at the Modesto Fitness and Racquet Club. Perine was a member of the club.
But in July 2011, prosecutors had the case dismissed because Perine was "factually innocent," according to Superior Court records. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris said it is rare for his office to determine that a defendant is "factually innocent."
Perine became a suspect after a man tried to use a credit card from the stolen wallet at an unidentified Target store and was captured on surveillance video. Besides credit cards, the wallet had about $300 in cash, according to Stanislaus County Superior Court records.
Beffa provided the health club manager with a photo from the surveillance video. The manager said the man in the photo looked familiar. Beffa left the photo with the manager, who called a few weeks later to say a club member thought the photo was of Perine.
Beffa then compared Perine's driver's license photo with the surveillance photo and determined they appeared to be the same man, according to the affidavit Beffa wrote in support of his arrest warrant.
But the lawsuit claims Beffa failed to follow basic investigative procedures:
The Target surveillance video captured the license plate number of the suspect's car, but Beffa did not contact the car's registered owner.
No photo lineup was conducted once Beffa determined Perine was a suspect.
No serious effort was made to contact Perine, although Perine made numerous attempts to meet with Beffa.
The health club member who identified Perine was not identified in the police report and-or properly interviewed.
The lawsuit says a district attorney's office investigator determined that the suspect in the surveillance video was not Perine.
The lawsuit also states the district attorney's office identified the actual suspect in the theft. Prosecutors did not have additional information.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.