$250,000 paid to pregnant driver slammed to the ground by CHP
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A pregnant woman who was pulled over for talking on her cellphone – and then tossed to the ground and hogtied by CHP officers on the shoulder of the busy Harbor Freeway – has been paid $250,000 in damages.
The 30-year-old woman was charged with resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license, but the charges were dropped after a video of the incident was played in court. The video was recorded on a camera mounted on the dashboard of a CHP cruiser.
“The conduct here is outrageous. What these officers did here was bewildering to me. They knew she was pregnant,” said Howard Price, the attorney for Tamara Gaglione. “She never resisted arrest.”
The eight-minute video of the August 2011 video shows a CHP officer tailing Tamara Gaglione on the 110 Freeway, with the Los Angeles skyline in the distance.
Once the woman pulls to the shoulder of the highway, after first pulling into the fast lane, a pair of CHP officers order her to get out of her dark green Dodge Caravan and put her hands in the air. Instead, the video shows, she stands and stares at the patrolman, appearing confused.
The action then picks up quickly in the video:
Guns drawn, the officers approach the driver and then one of the patrolman sweeps away her legs with a kick and pushes her to the asphalt. Another officer then presses his knee into the woman’s back and pins her to the ground.
At another point, it appears the woman is kicked in her left ribs. Eventually she is hogtied and placed in a squad car.
“I’d never seen a gun for real before,” Gaglione said later. “I just froze. I was scared they’d shoot me.”
In their report, the officers said the woman had ignored their orders and appeared to raise her arms in an aggressive manner after hopping out of the van.
Based on a report filed by one of the patrolmen, Officer Daniel Hernandez, Gaglione was charged by the Los Angeles city attorney with misdemeanor evading and resisting arrest and driving on a suspended license.
After the charges were dismissed, Gaglione pleaded no contest to a simple infraction of using her cellphone while driving. Gaglione and her attorney said the judge questioned the actions of the officers.
CHP officials declined to discuss the incident, or the $250,000 settlement. The officers involved in the incident remain on the force, the Highway Patrol said.
“The CHP conducted a review of the tactics and, as necessary, took appropriate action. By law, we cannot comment further on matters involving personnel issues,” said Fran Clader, department spokeswoman. Gaglione said she discovered the existence of the dashboard video when the officers later drove her to the hospital, discussing it in play-by-play fashion.
Price said Hernandez failed to mark a box on the arrest report noting the existence of the dash cam video and a prosecutor initially told him none existed. But Price said his client persisted.
Initially, he said, Price got a video from a backup patrol car. Then he was told the dash cam video could not be copied so he went to the CHP and videotaped the original recording himself, Price said.
Gaglione later sued the CHP and the five officers and one sergeant involved in the incident, alleging that her civil rights had been violated and that she had been subjected to excessive force and malicious prosecution.
Before any of the CHP officers could be deposed, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow agreed last August to settle the suit. Three months later, the state paid $250,000 to Gaglione.
For Gaglione, now the mother of a 9-month old son, the incident on the freeway changed her life, she said. She left Los Angeles, where she worked as nanny and ran a pet care business.
“I will always be scared of police officers because of these knuckleheads,” she said
Video: CHP video of eight-minute encounter with Tamara Gaglione. The physical encounter begins at the 3:45-minute mark.