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Suit Can Proceed Against LAPD

A ruling that said the police could be sued by an inmate using a federal racketeering law is allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court.

January 10, 2006|Henry Weinstein | Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that the Los Angeles Police Department can be sued under the federal racketeering law by a man who alleges that he was framed by officers as part of the Rampart scandal.

The high court, without comment, declined to review an August decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court had said that David Diaz was entitled to pursue claims against the department and former Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, now a city councilman. No police department has been held liable under the racketeering law -- known as RICO.

Diaz asserts that Los Angeles police officers fabricated evidence, tampered with witnesses and conspired to obtain a false conviction against him for assault with a deadly weapon and other charges.

Consequently, Diaz alleges, he lost his job, other job opportunities and money he could have earned.

Diaz's attorney, Stephen Yagman of Venice, said Monday's action would give him the opportunity to present evidence in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles of "bad stuff the LAPD has been up to for 15 years in a way no one ever before has done."

Though that is possible, Diaz, who is serving 37 years to life on 1999 convictions of attempted murder, aggravated mayhem and other charges, still has to overcome considerable hurdles to get to trial. The Supreme Court action means that he has cleared the initial hurdle -- the attempt by Los Angeles officials to get the case dismissed.

To win at trial, Diaz would have to persuade a jury that it was more likely than not that he had been framed. In last August's 7-4 ruling that permitted the case to go forward, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, writing for the majority, pointedly said that "because of his attempted murder and assault convictions, Diaz will likely face an uphill battle" in his case against the city.

Diaz is challenging his convictions in a separate court proceeding, but so far has been unsuccessful.

The Supreme Court's decision to let the lower-court decision stand creates opportunities for other individuals to sue the LAPD under RICO.

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