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L.A. County to pay $900,000 to settle deputy's harassment suit

Deputy Robert Lyznick had alleged that his supervisor sexually harassed him and threatened him with violence. Sheriff's officials say they launched an investigation and took appropriate action. The supervisor, Sgt. Charles Dery, says the allegations were fabricated.

April 20, 2011|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay $900,000 to settle a lawsuit by a sheriff's deputy who alleged that his boss sexually harassed him and threatened him with violence.

Among Deputy Robert Lyznick's allegations were that his supervisor asked him to "come into the bathroom for a rectal probe" and boasted he could get the deputy "so drunk" that the deputy would perform oral sex on him.

When Lyznick denied the advances, Sgt. Charles Dery told him "no means yes" and "guys who [are] first to deny it want to do it," the lawsuit states.

Dery, in an interview with The Times, said the allegations against him were fabricated. He resigned from the Sheriff's Department in 2008 after the agency launched an internal affairs investigation into Lyznick's accusations.

According to Lyznick's attorney, the harassment lasted about a year, and grew more flagrant over time. In December 2007, the deputy alleged he entered the station locker room to find his sergeant in his underwear, dancing provocatively. When the deputy tried to leave, he alleges Dery "reached over and played with [Lyznick's] left nipple."

The deputy posted sexual harassment awareness posters around the Chatsworth office, hoping Dery would stop targeting him, according to the complaint. Instead, he said the sergeant threatened him about speaking out.

"If someone rolls over on me, I'll put a bullet in his head," Dery was alleged to have said. "I'll drag him out to the desert and bury him in the desert. The desert is a big place and there are lots of places to hide a body."

Dery told The Times that deputies at the Metrolink station where he was a supervisor are lazy and resented his efforts "to get them to work for a living."

"Occasionally I'd make jokes of a sexual natureā€¦that's just the nature of the beast," he said. "It wasn't repetitive. It wasn't done every day, but they made up allegations to get rid of me....I was thrown under the bus." Dery said he offered to take a polygraph test for sheriff's officials to prove the allegations against him were false.

Lyznick's settlement comes less than two months after the county agreed to pay $4.25 million and other costs to Blake Dupree, a man who was paralyzed from the chest down after a sheriff's deputy Tasered him, causing him to fall from the top bunk of his jail bed. Dupree, who had been refusing to leave his cell, was then carried out to the station's fingerprint area and dumped on the floor, according to his lawsuit. Much of the 2007 incident was caught on tape.

In Lyznick's case, his attorney, Gregory W. Smith, said the amount should have been higher. His client was so afraid that he purchased a stun gun for his wife, passed out photos of Dery to his neighbors and installed surveillance cameras around his home, Smith said.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said an internal investigation was launched into the allegations, "and appropriate action was taken."

"This is an anomaly," Whitmore said. "Regrettably, things occur and we certainly take them seriously and respond to them thoroughly and quickly."

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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