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Contempt Order Sought Against Activist's Lawyer Over 'Leaked' Files

March 30, 1989|BETTINA BOXALL | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The city attorney's office is seeking a contempt order against one of anti-brutality activist Don Jackson's defense attorneys, claiming the lawyer improperly leaked confidential information to the press.

Appearing in Municipal Court on Monday, Deputy City Atty. Harold W. Potter contended that defense attorney Thomas E. Beck supplied a Press-Telegram reporter with information about two previous brutality complaints against Long Beach Police Officer Mark Dickey, who was secretly filmed by a television crew earlier this year while appearing to push Jackson into a plate glass window after a traffic stop.

The names and addresses of individuals who had previously complained to the Long Beach Police Department about Dickey's conduct were contained in department files provided to Jackson's defense for his trial on charges of resisting arrest when stopped by Dickey in mid-January. The material was considered confidential by the city, which obtained a court order barring the public release of the information. In both incidents the Police Department cleared Dickey of misconduct.

Case Was Too Weak

But the trial of Jackson was scrapped last week after the Long Beach prosecutor dropped the charge of resisting arrest, along with the traffic citation issued to Jackson's companion, Jeff Hill, the driver, who had been accused of illegally changing lanes. The case, the prosecutor concluded, was probably too weak to obtain a conviction.

In light of the dismissal, Beck asked Municipal Court Judge Gary R. Hahn to allow the public release of the police files.

But Potter not only argued successfully Monday that the material should remain confidential, he accused Beck of violating the court order and asked Hahn to hold Beck in contempt. An April 17 hearing has been scheduled on the matter.

Potter, in an interview, cited a March 25 article in the Press-Telegram in which the two previous brutality complaints involving Dickey are detailed. In that article, the reporter states that Beck released the names and addresses of the alleged brutality victims after talking to them and confirming that they were not seeking confidentiality.

"There was apparently information released that was not supposed to be released," Potter said.

Witnesses Contacted Paper

Beck, saying the city hasn't "a prayer" of obtaining a contempt order, said he had planned to call as defense witnesses the individuals who had complained about Dickey. He interviewed them in preparation for the trial and encouraged them to contact the Press-Telegram with their stories, which they did, Beck said.

"I don't see that I've violated any order," Beck commented, adding that it wasn't he who provided the newspaper with information about the brutality complaints, but rather the people who filed the complaints.

In one instance, a 20-year-old college student claimed Dickey jerked him through his open car window during a traffic stop last August. In the second incident, in 1987, a 29-year-old Compton man claimed that Dickey was one of several officers who beat him, used an electronic Taser gun on him, and then threw him into the trunk of a patrol car.

Asserting that the Police Department has whitewashed brutality complaints against Dickey, Beck insisted in an interview that Dickey "has a recent history of doing precisely what he did to Jackson and worse. . . ."

Dickey, who has been reassigned from patrol duty to a desk job pending the outcome of a department investigation of his conduct in the Jackson incident, went on paid "injured" leave last week when he spit up blood after hearing that the Jackson case had been dropped.

The FBI and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are also investigating Dickey's conduct during his encounter with Jackson, a Hawthorne police sergeant on disability leave who has mounted several stings in his self-styled crusade against police brutality in Southern California.

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