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NEWS IN BRIEF: A summary of developments across Los
Angeles County | Official Business / Courts and Government

Bid to Dismiss City From Pratt Suit Rejected

October 27, 1998

A federal judge refused Monday to dismiss the city of Los Angeles and five retired police officers from a civil rights lawsuit filed by former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt.

But U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder left the door open for the city to renew its request later in the case.

Pratt sued the FBI and the LAPD earlier this year after an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered him released from prison after he had served 27 years for murder.

In his federal suit, Pratt said the two law enforcement agencies conspired to frame him because of his role in the Black Panther Party.

He accused the FBI of destroying wiretap evidence showing that he was in Oakland at the time of a 1968 robbery-murder on a Santa Monica tennis court.

While not ruling on whether Pratt was innocent of the crime, Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey overturned his conviction because trial prosecutors withheld evidence that a witness against him, Julius Butler, was a police informant. The district attorney's office is appealing the decision.

If the appeals court reinstates Pratt's conviction, his case against the LAPD and FBI would be weakened because he could no longer claim malicious prosecution.

But Pratt's attorney, Brian Dunn, said the city and the FBI would still be liable for allegedly abusing the judicial process.

Assistant City Atty. Don W. Vincent argued that the allegations against the LAPD officers were too vague to support Pratt's conspiracy claim.

Snyder denied his motion without prejudice, meaning it can be raised again.

The federal government has not filed a dismissal motion in the suit and was not represented in court Monday.

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