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Brutality Case Loser Files Suit Against Lawyers

Times Staff Writer

Four days after losing his brutality case against the Newport Beach Police Department, Robert Michael Heath filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Newport Beach city attorney, the city’s outside counsel and the four police officers he originally sued.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, seeks $210 million in damages for “deprivation of civil rights, racketeering and corrupt acts.”

Heath’s complaint alleges that Newport Beach City Atty. Robert Burnham and Thomas Feeley, the city’s outside counsel, deprived Heath of his civil rights by failing to disclose the identity of witnesses during the recent federal court trial, among other things.

Suit Called ‘Unusual’

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“I don’t think I’ve ever been sued before and it’s a very large first suit,” Burnham said in an interview. He said this type of lawsuit is “very unusual.”

Feeley said he plans to complain to the California State Bar about Heath’s attorney, Stephen Yagman, because Yagman filed this kind of a lawsuit.

“His (Yagman’s) behavior throughout the trial was disgraceful and unprofessional,” Feeley said.

In fact, Feeley said, he is “sure the officers are thinking of bringing an action for malicious prosecution” against Yagman.

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Yagman could not be reached for comment.

Heath’s suit accuses the attorneys of “obstruction of justice” and alleges that they “conspired to commit perjury.”

The complaint also names Burke, Williams and Sorenson, Feeley’s Los Angeles law firm, and the four police officers named in the original complaint.

Alleges Brain Damage

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Heath, 38, a former dentist from Costa Mesa who now lives in Naples, Fla., alleged that he suffered brain damage during a barroom scuffle with police two years ago.

On Monday, a federal court jury unanimously found that the officers did not violate his civil rights and denied his claim for $5 million damages.

On Tuesday, Heath’s brother John filed a similar lawsuit against the City of Newport Beach, alleging that he was injured by officers during the same scuffle at the Stag Bar.

Feeley said Robert Heath went into a “violent frenzy” and interfered when the officers were arresting his brother. The officers denied that they used excessive force on either Heath brother.

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