Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two women sue Riverside, RPD for millions in damages

"No lie lives forever."

----Martin Luther King, jr.

More wet, wild weather hits the Inland Empire as the El Nino enriched storms hit the formerly parched Southern California region. The city of Riverside is out responding to issues from overwhelmed storm drain systems to flooded streets to outages in the city's wireless internet network. On the wifi, there were multiple in most of zip codes 92504 and 92506. The former might be fixed beginning on Tuesday, as for the latter, hopefully soon. Questions did arise about whether or not those who had signed up for the paid wireless network would be credited or refunded for the downtime resulting from outages in different locations and that's an issue that has to be addressed with AT&T although that probably won't impact very many people.

Until then, Coffee Depot, Back the Grind, Coffee Bean, Borders (at Mag Plaza) and Starbucks (paid) offer wireless internet and some shelter from the rain.

[A secondary access point on the Riverside city Wi Fi system awaits a broadcast signal that's not coming. Two outages impacting zip codes 92504 and 92506 were being addressed by AT&T's technological division in the wake of severe El Nino generated storms and the city's been a firm advocate for its wireless network including in this situation. At least one area is still without a Wi Fi signal.]

[The rain fall overwhelms one storm drain flooding the intersection of Magnolia and Elmwood near downtown Riverside. City employees have diligently been working in flood-prone areas in the city as the storm drains are being stretched pass their capacity by the endless rain particularly in areas like the Wood Street neighborhood.]

The Mayor Speaks

[Over 900 people watch the Mayor's State of the City Address at Riverside's downtown Convention Center]

The mayor spoke, people including elected officials and city employees congregated and his speech was pretty much the same as last year. His focus, he claimed, was to make Riverside the jewel of the world, that public safety was a main priority and that there was yet another strategic plan for the city's future. In other words, business as usual. Nothing about the city's economic state at City Hall, nothing to acknowledge the employees laid off by the city, nothing to acknowledge the major budget cuts to the public safety departments including the police department. Most of the speech dealt with Riverside Renaissance which is the program which advocates doing a lot now, paying much more later.

The venue's nice, maybe the food tastes good, the company's not bad but not much variety in the speeches. Riverside as yet another concept, rather than reality, using slogans and studies to attract businesses rather than strengthening the city’s infrastructure, not endangering its ability to provide basic services to city residents and create a friendlier and helpful environment at City Hall for people starting new businesses.

Police Officer Robert Forman's Sentencing Postponed Again

A full crowd of police officers, prosecutors and family members and friends of former Riverside Police Officer Robert Forman gathered in the courtroom of presiding judge, John Molloy to hear a motion for new trial which has been submitted by Forman's attorney, Mark Johnson and also to await Molloy's sentencing of Forman after he was convicted last month on a felony charge of oral copulation under the color of authority and misdemeanor petty theft. The attorneys for both sides and an appellate attorney at the Riverside County District Attorney's office went into chambers while three representatives from the department's Internal Affairs Division and investigators from the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division sat in the audience along with everyone else waiting to see what you happen next. Incidentally, SACA and the Domestic/Family Violence divisions are both without sergeants.

Not too long after, Molloy and the attorneys returned and Molloy announced that both the sentencing and motion for new trial would be moved to Friday, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. because the court had not yet received and read the District Attorney's response for the motion for new trial that it filed through the courts and Molloy was still awaiting to hear from the doctor who was supposed to interview Forman as part of his sentencing. Without the doctor's letter, state law would require Forman to be sentenced to a term in state prison.

As far as the motion for new trial, there might be several witnesses working both for the police department and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office taking the stand to testify during the proceeding. So a lot might be happening in the courtroom on that date and lately, it's been a packed house.

Attending from the police department were Internal Affairs Division sergeants, Marcus Smail, John Capen and Pat McCarthy as well as RPOA vice president Brian Smith, Sgt. Julian Hutzler and Det. Linda Byerly. Forman has been held in Riverside County Jail since his conviction last month. But he's not alone, because also sitting in jail is former Officer David Reeves, Jr. who is currently awaiting his preliminary hearing on felony charges of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Two women file $11.1 million in claims and lawsuits against Riverside

In related news, the claims for damages filed against Forman keep coming in to the tune of $11.1 million including the $1.1 million claim filed by Kathryn Boesen which came before the city council several weeks. I asked the city council to take her claim seriously and not have some representative of the city council call it "frivolous" like they have with the rest of the lawsuits filed against the city, including at least a half dozen that have ended in financial settlements paid out by the city and/or its insurance carrier (provided it even has one). So far about $1.75 million worth of settlements of "frivolous" and "meritless" cases.

The damage that Forman has done to this woman, possibly other women (because most often, the behavior's been going on for a while before officers get caught) and every officer that is employed by the department who doesn't go out and sexually assault women while in uniform can't begin to be estimated in dollars. But then neither can the damage that's being done to the police department by the current short-sighted decision making at City Hall which apparently decided to run the department itself beginning in late 2005 or early 2006. At least one past city councilman said he told City Manager Brad Hudson to stop doing that and Hudson had said that he would but has he? Is everything going as it should or are the chickens coming home to roost on this management situation involving the police department?

Councilman Steve Adams blew up on the dais and gave some speech about how the city took all the litigation seriously and then the city council went behind closed doors and tossed out the claim on a technicality rather than rejected it on whether or not the facts were present in the case of a woman being forced into oral copulation by Forman inside her own apartment. By that action, the city council as a body and the mayor did the residents of this city a huge disfavor and they also cast the police department in a bad light by not addressing this issue on the content of the claim. Taking it seriously Adams? The man needs to first go look in a dictionary to see what that word means and then he needs to explain to the public what the city meant by taking it seriously.

Taking it seriously means to make a legal decision based on the facts or the lack of facts, not dismiss it on a technicality to dodge the issue which will surely come back in a bigger way down the road anyway. But the decision of the city council to reject the claim makes me wonder if the city including City Attorney Gregory Priamos have been honest in presenting them all the facts of this case and about Forman's career as a police officer. From the decision by the city, either that doesn't seem likely or they don't realize that it's quite possible that they've merely postponed settling the case for a financial sum. Did legal tell the city council the truth or did it tell it what it wanted to hear?

Other council members also echoed that this would be taken seriously and then even though Forman had been convicted of assaulting this woman while onduty by forcing her to have oral sex to avoid being arrested, the city council rejected the claim for not being timely. That's just as well as it turns out, because this case should probably at this point in time be allowed to take place inside a courtroom with a public trial so that parties can try the case and see who the jury sides with and maybe it's time for the city's residents to know the truth, just like it's time for the city to know that the city including Mayor Loveridge is claiming to prioritize public safety while freezing officer positions including at the supervisory levels. Because none of the speeches which appear to be more about self-promotion than reality have mentioned these facts so far.

it now was the best chance to pay out relatively cheaply and much more quietly. That won't be the case further down the road particularly if the cases survive summary judgment motions which at least in the Boesen case is almost a certainty. A lot of it will have to do with how completely the city complies with the provision of discovery to the plaintiffs' attorneys as well. And if this case goes to trial and everything comes out, it will most likely be very costly for the tax payers in this city and given that it will take place in a public forum, the price to be paid for the truth coming out during the proceedings won't be one that a dollar sign can be attached to.

The city council through its decision on advice of the city attorney's office had done this city a public disservice from a civil liability perspective by allowing the lawsuit to proceed to trial and the public can hear testimony and whether or not Forman caused harm through his actions to these women or not, and whether the police department took the necessary steps to address the misconduct that Forman allegedly engaged in with these women to prevent it from happening to them. And exactly what kind of police officer Forman had been during his career, both laudatory and atrocious.

Still, the city's not going to take this case to trial, let alone letting the jury hear the facts in a public forum like a courtroom. It's going to take it to the motion of Summary Judgment after the deposition process begins and if it doesn't win that motion, it's going to settle at least the Boesen case. And for the taxpayers, it's not going to be cheap especially if the city's self-insured. In fact, once all the facts in the case are put on the table, every single one of them, it's going to become clear to the city that it will have no choice to settle this case to put these lawsuits and the career of one of its police officers behind it.

Behind closed doors naturally.

Another one of the women who filed a lawsuit is seeking $10 million in damages, and in her case Forman was acquitted on the oral copulation under the color of authority charge, so it's less clear what will happen in this case. But in order to prevail, the city will have to prove that Forman didn't commit the misconduct (from both an administrative and criminal angle) and that he's not capable of committing such misconduct, that these women are liars and that even if they were victims of crimes, their civil rights weren't violated by Forman and they weren't "damaged" by his conduct.

But this is going to be very, very difficult for the city to do for reasons that will become more apparent as time goes on, because when the facts, all of them, come out on the table and possibly inside a federal courtroom, it's likely that the city will look back at the decision they made in closed session and wish they could revisit it.

But now that the city government has taken its action, the case should be allowed to proceed to trial so that the facts of the trial can be heard in front of a jury. The only problem is that the ones standing trial in this situation will most likely be the police department and the city even as the city will be trying to put the plaintiffs on trial and in the past that has proven to be expensive.

Former Officer Anthony Fletcher Arraigned in Court

In related news, former Riverside Police Department officer, Anthony Fletcher plead not guilty to charges of lewd conduct with a minor and child molestation in front of presiding judge, Richard T. Fields. Fletcher, who was present with his attorney was advised of his rights. Fletcher was the fifth Riverside Police Department officer to be arrested and charged with crimes since October 2008.

Will the Grand Fox be economically viable?

Some seem to base its success or failure on the sales of tickets to patrons but most art and cultural institutions need to supplement that heavily with generous private endowments in order to subsidize ticket prices to attract a greater crowd of people who can afford to enjoy the theater in the middle of a recession.

Adopt a Sergeant

What really needs to be started is an endowment fund for Riverside Police Department sergeants. There can be gold, silver and bronze levels of donations so that Riverside can have a police department that's adequately supervised by an appropriate number of sergeants. Or perhaps the city can adopt an "Adopt a Sergeant" position. After all, that's what several former and current public officials have been doing with its officers by allegedly having them removed from assignments and deployed to their neighborhoods during their reelection cycles. But if the city can't address the staffing shortages involving sergeants in a responsible fashion, these are some other options.

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