One of seven defendants in a lawsuit over the 2012 murders of a locksmith and a deputy sheriff has agreed to pay the locksmith’s survivors $230,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
The other six defendants, all linked to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, remain in the lawsuit and a trial is scheduled for August.
In an unrelated development, a federal judge this week ended a “long struggle” by defense attorneys asking permission to scrutinize locksmith Glendon Engert’s computer, saying a privacy dispute was taking too long to referee. The judge anticipated that giving the county’s lawyers a peek “could potentially open a Pandora’s box of additional discovery disputes” and ruled that everyone already knows Engert spent a lot of time online.
Engert, 35, and deputy Bob Paris, 53, were ambushed while trying to serve an eviction at a Chrysler Drive fourplex in Modesto, sparking a lengthy standoff that ended in an inferno and gunman Jim Ferrario’s suicide. Engert’s widow and parents sued the county, noting that two investigations found fault with the Sheriff’s Department because of warnings about Ferrario’s instability and military-grade weapons.
Named as defendants are the county, Sheriff Adam Christianson, Paris’ estate, a deputy who was not shot, a supervising sergeant and lieutenant, and then-new landowner Roni Roberts.
Roberts and his company, RT Financial, denied having failed to warn Engert of potential danger at the home, which was locked when he and the deputies arrived. Ferrario shot the victims with an assault rifle as Engert was disabling a security door lock on the porch.
The $230,000 deal represents “a rough approximation of (Roberts’) proportionate liability” and should not be perceived as “an attempt to make (the county and other defendants) pay more than their fair share,” reads a court document signed by Roberts’ Modesto attorney, Cornelius Callahan.
“The shooting deaths of Glendon Engert and deputy Robert Paris were a tragedy,” Callahan said Friday in an email. “Mr. Roberts was moments away from being present when the shootings occurred. My client personally knew both men and mourns their loss.”
The settlement is subject to a judge’s approval on March 27 at federal court in Fresno.
“We think it’s a positive sign that the Engerts are willing to consider settlement in this matter,” said County Counsel John Doering.
In pretrial maneuvering, a Sacramento law firm hired to defend the county has sought to probe the bank records, state disability records, and birth control and fertility history of Glendon and Irina Engert. A judge in October allowed a look at three years of their mental health and marriage counseling records, saying they could help determine the scope of her loss and set a value on his lost income.
On Tuesday, U.S. Judge Barbara McAuliffe pulled the plug on the county’s push to comb through the couple’s computer. The county’s lawyers hoped to show that Glendon Engert preferred online gaming to spending time with his wife, previous documents revealed, and McAuliffe said deposed testimony is enough to show “that Glendon spent a substantial amount (of) time on his home computer.”
Also, the county’s pursuit “has significantly morphed” over the months, the judge wrote, from a demand to see the whole thing to a request for specific search terms to another for “time spent on the computer.”
Doering on Friday said, “The focus of this whole matter initially was, and has been ever since, the imbalanced Mr. Ferrario, who precipitated this whole tragedy. He’s the bad guy – not the county, not anyone else.”