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Recovery of Illegal Police Spying Funds Upheld

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that taxpayers can sue individual governmental officers who have control over public money for an accounting and repayment of public funds spent on illegal spying by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Judge Robert H. O’Brien handed down his ruling in a suit asking the court to order Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and other police officials and officers to account for and refund to city coffers any public money spent since 1969 for monitoring people and groups engaged in nonviolent political, social and religious activities.

One of the attorneys representing the taxpayer plaintiffs, Dan Stormer, said on filing the suit that he could not estimate the amount spent on surveillance of non-criminal activities by the now-defunct Public Disorder Intelligence Division and its successor, the Anti-Terrorist Division, but that it would be “thousands and thousands of dollars.”

“We pleaded that they engaged in illegal activities beyond the scope of their duty and that these activities were illegal,” Stormer told The Times Friday.

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In overruling defendants’ motions that the lawsuit failed to state a proper cause of action, O’Brien noted that the alleged acts involved administrative officials in activities “which even the City Council would not have discretion to engage in or condone.”

Stormer said the written ruling, dated Thursday and obtained Friday, “acknowledges that this is a proper cause of action calling for individual responsibility for these acts.”

Last year the city settled similar complaints by 131 individuals and organizations represented by the American Civil Liberties Union by paying $1.8 million in attorneys fees and damages to those plaintiffs and revamping surveillance procedures.

Stormer said the new suit differs from the ACLU case in that it seeks to hold the individual police, governmental or other officials responsible for return of all illegally spent money to the city treasury.

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O’Brien also noted in his ruling that in the earlier suit the plaintiffs were suing on their own behalf to compensate them for their loss whereas those in the current suit were suing on behalf of the city.


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