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City to Pay for Defense in Brutality Suit

September 22, 1985|VIRGINIA ESCALANTE

HUNTINGTON PARK — The City Council has authorized its insurance company to provide lawyers and pay legal costs for the council, the police chief and eight police officers named in an $80-million lawsuit charging that the police used excessive force when they broke up a birthday party last fall.

The lawsuit, filed July 19, names Mayor Jim Roberts, Councilmen Herbert Hennes, Jack W. Parks, Thomas E. Jackson, William P. Cunningham, Police Chief Geano Contessotto and policemen Dale Shields, Carl Heintz, William Lustig, Daniel Banzet, Henry Batterton, Robert Mercado, Jonathan Nerlinger and Ron Whisenant.

Filed on behalf of 17 people attending a party on Oct. 17, 1984, the suit charges that the policemen searched the premises in "a violent and abusive manner" and "committed batteries and physical violence." It asks for $80 million in general and punitive damages.

Charges Dismissed

The suit was filed after Alejandro and Esther Miramontes were charged with assaulting police at the party. The charges against the two were dismissed by Judge John W. Bunnett, who cited insufficient evidence at their July 11 trial in Huntington Park Municipal Court, according to court records.

Medical evidence submitted to the court indicated Esther Miramontes, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and has gnarled hands and feet, was incapable of keeping police from entering the house by blocking a door, as police claimed. Her husband, Alejandro, is legally blind and suffers from a brain tumor. Charges against him were dropped because he had been incorrectly identified as having assaulted a policeman, according to his attorney, Ralph Fertig.

In a related matter, the trial in another civil suit citing actions by city policemen has been set for Sept. 30. Police Officer Jonathan Nerlinger and Thomas Rocke, a former Huntington Park policeman, are being sued by Frank Downer Murphy in Norwalk Superior Court. The suit, filed in 1981, seeks damages for assault and battery, negligence, false arrest and false imprisonment. Nerlinger and Rocke denied the charges in court documents.

Murphy filed suit after he was arrested on charges of rape and attempted murder at a street intersection. The charges were dropped in 1982 after a woman who filed charges against Murphy died of a drug overdose, court records show. The suit calls for $1 million in general, medical and punitive damages. The city will also pay for the policemen's legal expenses, said City Administrator Don Jeffers.

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