Supervisors Decide to Appeal $1.1-Million Brutality Award

Barring unforeseen circumstances, a recent jury verdict that granted a $1.1-million award to a former Navy chaplain in a lawsuit against the county will be appealed, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday in a closed session.

Jim Butler won his unprecedented award after a jury concluded he had been beaten while in County Jail and that the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has a policy of violating individuals' rights.

Butler, 60, has agreed to accept $1 each as punitive damages from the two deputies accused of beating him, but the award against the county still stands.

On the issue of appealing the decision, Supervisor Brian Bilbray said Tuesday night: "I assumed it was going to be appealed from the start. Several issues mandated that we appeal it."

Bilbray cited the "amount of the award and the issue of punitive damages against the county" as reasons for appealing the verdict.

Bilbray said he "had a problem" with the money awarded in the verdict being taken from general county coffers.

"In that situation, it's not the Sheriff's Department paying for the damages, but the Board of Supervisors, and that just isn't right," he said. "It should be the sheriff. As it is, that money will come out of programs for the poor. Now, if somehow it were possible to take it out of the sheriff's funds, great, but to take it out of unallocated money just isn't right."

Butler was jailed in January, 1985, after walking over to the scene of an accident in front of his Vista home. He was incarcerated for allegedly interfering with the deputies' investigation.

He later testified that he was taken to jail and beaten.

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