Ex-Covina Chief Wins $7,500 in Defamation Suit

Times Staff Writer

A Pomona Superior Court jury Wednesday awarded former Covina Police Chief Michael O'Day $7,500 in a defamation suit against Gerry Doyle, his antagonist in a 1983 controversy over police strip-search policies.

The jury found in favor of O'Day after 4 days of deliberation. At the same time, the jury in the courtroom of Judge Roy L. Norman ruled for Doyle in a cross-complaint against a neighbor, Joan White. The jury held that White was responsible for 36% of the damage to O'Day's reputation. Doyle had filed suit against White to compel her to pay all or part of the damages in case the jury found that O'Day was defamed.

In his suit, O'Day, 47, who now works as a private investigator, accused Doyle of maliciously making statements that he had stared at her breasts and had been seen "running around and cavorting with prostitutes."

White testified that Doyle made the statements to her while Doyle was engaged in a dispute with the Covina Police Department over its arrest and strip search of her 12-year-old son and two companions on attempted burglary charges that were later dismissed.

White said she did not believe Doyle's comments, but relayed them to the city manager because she thought he should know what was being said about the police chief. She said she also mentioned the comments to members of her family, and to the mother-in-law and father-in-law of the city manager.

O'Day testified that Doyle's untrue accusation that he associated with prostitutes caused him to resign as police chief in early 1984.

While the jury found that O'Day had been slandered, it also held that he had not suffered any financial loss as a result. The award of $7,500 was for non-economic damages.

O'Day defamation suit was one of three lawsuits that arose from the strip-search case. Covina Police Sgt. Steven Blades filed a slander suit against Doyle that is scheduled for trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in January.

Doyle, her husband and their son settled a $5-million suit in 1985 in federal court against the city of Covina for more than $40,000. The suit alleged that police had violated the boy's rights.

The state Legislature adopted a law regulating strip searches of juveniles after Doyle and others urged changes in police procedures.

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