COVINA — Parents of one of three youths involved in a controversial 1983 police strip-search case have filed a $5-million lawsuit, charging police harassment and retaliation.
Gerry and Earl Robert Doyle, acting as guardians for their son, Earl Walter Doyle, 15, filed the lawsuit this week in the federal District Court in Los Angeles.
Fred Blum, the Doyles' attorney, said an identical suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, but he expects the case to be heard in federal court.
Named as defendants in the suit are former Covina Police Chief Michael O'Day, City Manager Richard Miller and police officers Steven Blades, Robert Olive, Michael Osborn, Charles Wooten and Kim Raney. Blades and O'Day, who have filed slander suits against the Doyles, could not be reached for comment.
Miller called the lawsuit "pure and simple harassment. The suit is totally without merit."
The suit stems from an incident on April 15, 1983, when young Doyle and two friends, Jerry Perez, then 13, and Raymond Moore, then 14, stopped at an office complex on Citrus Avenue while walking to a movie theater.
Police stopped the boys and accused them of tampering with an office window. The boys denied the allegation and said they stopped briefly only because one of them was feeling sick. They were arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary, trespassing and loitering.
The three boys were then taken to the Covina Police Department, where they were strip-searched before being released into the custody of their parents. The charges were ultimately dismissed.
Gerry Doyle subsequently engaged in bitter public debates with Chief O'Day over the department's strip-search policies. She accused police of threatening her son and the other two boys with a police dog, using the strip-searches to humiliate them and failing to call the parents promptly.
Doyle organized a petition drive against the city's strip-search procedures. Her son's case also was championed by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who authored state legislation that imposed new limits on strip-searches statewide.
The controversy was cited by O'Day as a contributing factor in his decision to resign his post in March of last year.
The charges against the three boys were dismissed in Pomona Juvenile Court last September by Judge Carol Fieldhouse. Fieldhouse said he saw no reason to pursue a case that he had once labeled a "14th-degree burglary."
Informal Probation Offered
Before dismissal of the charges, the Doyles and the parents of the other boys had rejected an offer of informal probation for their sons because they said it would have implied that the boys were guilty. The Doyles also charged that Covina police sought to prosecute the boys only because Gerry Doyle had accused the police of misconduct.
After the charges were dismissed, Gerry Doyle said that legal expenses had left the family deeply in debt and that she hoped to recover damages through a lawsuit.