Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates said Thursday that he was “especially pleased” for his deputies and Santa Ana police officers after a federal judge dismissed an $11-million lawsuit brought by a former Orange County Register reporter who claimed that he was illegally investigated for writing stories critical of the sheriff.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Kelleher ruled in Los Angeles that former reporter Charles (Chuck) Cook waited too long to sue Gates over incidents allegedly occurring between 1983 and 1985. Gates, the county and city of Santa Ana were defendants in the case.
Cook, now editor of the Daily Signal in Santa Clarita, said he will appeal the ruling.
“The frivolous nature of Cook’s claims indicate the political nature of this suit on Cook’s part,” Gates said. “This decision should be a message to Cook and to others who bring lawsuits to achieve their political agenda to quit wasting the courts’ time and the taxpayers’ money to pursue their political objectives.”
“If they don’t like the way I run the Sheriff’s Department, they should file as a candidate and run against me and let the voters decide,” Gates said.
In his lawsuit, Cook alleged that Gates and others conspired against him because he had written articles critical of deaths in Orange County Jail and other issues involving the Sheriff’s Department. Cook claimed that Gates threatened, harassed and attempted to discredit him to get him fired from the Register.
Cook said he did not learn that 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 the 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 without admitting that Gates had done anything wrong.