SANTA ANA — A federal jury has exonerated two Huntington Beach police officers accused of using excessive force against a man whose party was being broken up.
The accusations against Officers John Cottriel and Charles Conlosh were dismissed late Friday after less than two hours of deliberation in the two-week civil trial.
"I feel fantastic," said Conlosh, who is also a Fountain Valley city councilman. "I'm glad it's over and looking forward to getting on with my life."
Carol Watson, an attorney representing James C. Dahl, who filed the claims against the two officers, called the verdict a tragedy.
"It appears," she said, "that Orange County juries will accept any kind of behavior on the part of police officers, no matter how awful."
The lawsuit stemmed from a 1990 incident in which Cottriel and Conlosh responded to complaints of excessive noise at a party at an apartment occupied by Dahl, the 38-year-old son of a Huntington Beach police sergeant.
In an altercation outside the apartment, Dahl was struck with a police baton and bitten by a police dog, attorneys said. The two sides disagreed about how badly Dahl was beaten, and what triggered it.
During the trial, Dahl and several friends who attended the party testified that he had been cooperative and that the attack was unprovoked.
Police said Dahl--who was later acquitted on charges that he assaulted the officers and their dog--had been belligerent.
"Apparently, the jury thought that the officers were more credible in their testimony," said Neal Moore, an attorney representing Cottriel and Conlosh. "I think it was a question of quality--the quality of evidence was in favor of the officers."