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Dorner reward candidate questions if process is 'impartial'

April 10, 2013|By Joseph Serna and Louis Sahagun
  • An aerial view of a burned-out cabin where accused murder suspect Christopher Dorner died after barricading himself inside.
An aerial view of a burned-out cabin where accused murder suspect Christopher… (John Valenzuela / Associated…)

An attorney for the man who was carjacked by former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner criticized guidelines the city is using to distribute a $1-million reward for his capture.

In a letter sent to the LAPD’s detective bureau Tuesday, an attorney representing Rick Heltebrake questioned the department’s proposal to use a three-judge panel to determine who gets the reward for Dorner’s capture and death, and questioned whether Heltebrake would get a fair shake.

“Mr. Heltebrake is not opposed to the city’s efforts to establish a procedure for the city to process and decide who is entitled to the reward,” wrote Allen Thomas, Heltebrake’s attorney. “However, the process established by the city should be fair and impartial, if it expects Mr. Heltebrake to agree to that process.”

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop

Heltebrake was the last civilian to encounter Dorner before his shot himself in a dramatic standoff with federal and local authorities in a Big Bear-area cabin in February. Dorner stopped Heltebrake on a road and stole his truck at gunpoint. Heltebrake reportedly called a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy minutes later.

Dorner killed four people, including two police officers in his violent quest for revenge on the department that fired him.

More than two dozen public agencies, groups and people contributed to a $1.2-million reward for Dorner’s capture and conviction. However, in recent days some groups have backed out, saying that since Dorner was dead, no one was entitled to the money.

WHO THEY WERE: Victims in the Dorner case

The LAPD has continued to support distribution of the reward. Heltebrake’s attorney, however, said the process was too opaque and the rules too open-ended for Heltebrake to agree to them if he wants the money. The new process requires anyone seeking the reward to forego litigation if they aren’t given any of the money.

According to the criteria, three retired judges will determine who gets the money.

The cash will be put in a trust fund operated by the Los Angeles-based Richards, Watson and Gershon law firm. The recipients will be publicly announced and forfeit their chance to appeal the judges' decision when they apply for the money.

Donors can recommend what portion of the money claimants should receive, if any. Law enforcement officials can rank the help they received from the claimants as "vital; helpful but not essential; or of no value," to finding Dorner.

Any money that's not awarded will be returned, prorated, to the contributing agencies.

Claimants who do not file formal submissions by April 19 will not be eligible for the reward, regardless of their importance in the Dorner manhunt.

The $1-million reward was created and currently operates separate and apart from official city of Los Angeles business.

"At this time, that million reward is operating outside the guidelines set forth in the City Charter," William W. Carter, L.A.'s chief deputy city attorney, said in an interview, "and that is because it's beyond the $100,000 limit set for the city."

"The city's potential liability is for $100,000," he added.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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