Stanislaus County leaders last week paid $160,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by three Patterson residents after a scuffle with police at the tail end of the 2006 Apricot Fiesta.
Officers taunted Iraq war veteran Wayne Smith and hurt disabled friend George Denton, according to their lawsuit filed with a federal court in Fresno. Smith's mother, Tammy Smith, beat charges stemming from her attempted intervention, according to the lawsuit, and also sued.
Defendants were the county, whose Sheriff's Department provides Patterson with contract law enforcement, as well as 13 officers and former Police Chief Tyrone Spencer. Also named were the city of Patterson, former Assistant Sheriff Mark Puthuff, who ran the department at the time, and Sheriff Adam Christianson, who took office three months after the altercation.
The county admits no wrongdoing in settling, said County Counsel John Doering. "It's just a resolution in the interest of both parties," he said.
San Jose attorney Anthony Boskovich said, "This settlement is significant in size and is most certainly an acknowledgment by the county that the issues were not only real but severe.
"In our opinion, we believe this case exposed some serious issues within the county of Stanislaus' Sheriff's Department, from command on down," Boskovich said.
Last week proved significant in the county's legal division, starting with county supervisors on Tuesday agreeing to the $160,000 settlement in closed session. On Wednesday, appellate court justices in Fresno ruled in the county's favor in an environmental lawsuit regarding a proposed business park in Crows Landing. And on Thursday, jurors rejected sexual harassment claims against a sheriff's official brought by a former clerk.
"It's good to have this behind us so we can move on to other things," Doering said Monday.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.