A federal judge Wednesday dismissed an $11-million lawsuit brought against Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates by a former Orange County Register reporter, who claimed he was illegally investigated for writing stories critical of the sheriff.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kelleher ruled in a Los Angeles courtroom that Charles Cook had waited too long to sue Gates about incidents that allegedly occurred between 1983 and 1985.
But Cook, now editor of the Daily Signal in Santa Clarita, said he is confident the case will be reinstated on appeal.
In his lawsuit, Cook alleged that Gates and others conspired against him because he had written articles critical of deaths in the Orange County Jail and other issues involving the Sheriff’s Department. Cook claimed that Gates threatened, harassed and attempted to discredit him in an effort to get him fired from the Register.
“In effect I was fired,” Cook said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I was asked to submit my resignation.”
Cook said the judge, in dismissing his suit, ruled that “I should have known by things happening around me (and) that the sheriff was conducting illegal investigations of me at the time.”
But Cook said he did not learn he had been the target of Gates’ investigation until February, 1987, when documents were produced in another federal lawsuit. That lawsuit was brought against the sheriff and Orange County by former Municipal Judge Bobby D.Youngblood. Youngblood also alleged that he had been the target of harassment because of opposition to the sheriff’s policies.
The county settled the Youngblood suit out of court, paying $375,000 to Youngblood and other plaintiffs, but did not admit Gates had done anything wrong.
“Obviously we feel the appeals court will see otherwise, and we’re very confident the thing will be back in court,” Cook said Wednesday. “It will delay the trial 8 to 18 months and increase the bills for the county.”