LOS ANGELES : City Offers to Pay Damages in Rodney King Beating

Los Angeles, in an effort to put the Rodney G. King beating case behind it, offered Thursday to admit liability for the motorist's beating and pay "actual damages" for King's injuries--a settlement a federal judge indicated he will accept.

But U.S. District Judge John Davies said the proposal, which he called "unusual and imaginative," probably won't save the city from a lengthy civil trial in which the now-familiar issues of the police beating are replayed through the testimony of witnesses.

"The defendants have a heightened right to defend against punitive damages," Davies said, predicting that testimony on that question will take many weeks. "The saving in time may occur but it won't be as great as we may think," he said.

Attorney Skip Miller, representing the city, told the judge: "The city wants to put this incident behind the city and the citizens of Los Angeles."

Davies said he understood the city to be saying, "We are responsible for everything that happened to Mr. King." However, he said this does not decide the liability of individual officers who beat King on March 3, 1991, and jurors will have to decide if and when the officers crossed the line into excessive force.

King did not attend the hearing.

Davies said he plans to go ahead with the civil trial March 22, indicating that any chances for a full settlement of King's lawsuit have evaporated.

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