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L.A. County Told to Pay $3.7 Million in False Arrest Case : Courts: Judgment will cover attorneys fees for four adults who were falsely accused of child molestation 11 years ago.

June 03, 1995|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Norwalk Superior Court judge has ruled that Los Angeles County must pay $3.7 million in attorneys fees--in addition to a previously ordered $7.3 million in damages--in the case of four adults who were falsely accused of child molestation 11 years ago.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said Thursday that the sizable judgment was fair, considering that the legal work spanned a decade and included two trials and an appellate court hearing. It will be divided among five attorneys who worked on the case.

"I thought it was very fair considering they had put us through every obstacle, every conceivable hurdle," said Eduardo M. Madrid, who represented one of the plaintiffs, Jose Valentin.

Assistant County Counsel Robert Ambrose said the judgment, handed down Wednesday, was excessive and would be appealed if a settlement on a lesser amount was not reached.

A Superior Court jury in April awarded $7.3 million to Valentin and Myrna Malave, who once lived with Valentin, and their former Pico Rivera neighbors, Timothy and Helen O'Keefe. The jury found that sheriff's deputies improperly arrested them on molestation charges that were later dismissed.

The O'Keefes, Valentin and Malave were longtime residents of their neighborhood when they were arrested on suspicion of molesting local children. Prosecutors charged the couples with sexually abusing four boys, all 7 or 8 years old. The case inflamed the neighborhood, with at least one resident threatening to attack one or more of the accused.

Several children later said they made up the molestation allegations, and a Whittier Municipal Court judge later dismissed all charges after accusing another boy of lying because of inconsistencies in his story.

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