A federal jury has awarded $612,000 to a jaywalker, finding that a Santa Ana police officer used excessive force by throwing him to the ground and beating him with a baton.
Jurors decided Thursday that Hossein Farahani, 27, of Riverside County deserved the award for a back injury and a slash to his head that were incurred in the confrontation last year in Santa Ana.
The panel assessed $112,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages against Officer Steven Lodge and the city of Santa Ana, said attorney James W. Parker, who represented the defendants. He said he will appeal. Another officer, Joseph Perez, was absolved of wrongdoing in the case.
In his lawsuit, Farahani had sought $5 million in damages. But attorneys on both sides said the $612,000 award is one of the largest they know of for a police use-of-force case in which the plaintiff suffered relatively minor injuries.
Farahani's lawyer, Jerry Steering, however, said the award is justified.
"This was one of the most horrible things I've heard of," Steering said. "What this officer did to my client was pure torture."
But Parker denied that Lodge beat Farahani, and said whatever injuries he suffered occurred because he was resisting a legitimate arrest.
Lodge was on his police motorcycle near 4th Street and Grand Avenue at about 2:30 p.m. on May 2, 1989, when he saw Farahani crossing 4th Street against the flashing "Don't Walk" sign. When he set out in pursuit, Farahani fled and hid behind a partially demolished wall nearby.
The two sides disagree over what happened next. Lodge contended that Farahani refused to obey orders to put his hands on the police vehicle and struggled against Lodge, forcing the officer to push him to the ground.
Farahani admitted he should not have run from the officer, but said that he was frightened and that his limited English kept him from comprehending the officer's orders. In any case, his lawyer argued, he did nothing to justify being beaten. He suffered a ruptured disc in his back and a gash on his head that required eight stitches.
A forensic pathologist testified that Farahani's head injury appeared to have been made by a cylindrical object such as a police baton, attorneys said.
But Parker said Lodge denies striking Farahani with his baton, and suggested it was possible that Farahani hit his head on the officer's boot during the struggle, or on the bars welded to the body of Lodge's motorcycle.
"I don't think he was beaten," Parker said.