Track Olympian Settles False-Arrest Lawsuit


The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to pay $245,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from two 1992 incidents in which track star Al Joyner claimed his false arrest by LAPD officers was so emotionally trying that he was unable to compete in several pre-Olympic trials.

The city attorney’s office recommended the settlement, which awards $51,501 to Joyner and about $193,000 to his attorneys, the Pasadena-based law firm of Burton & Norris. Joyner, who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, had originally sued the city for $4.6 million.

Joyner said that he was falsely arrested twice in rapid succession May 8, 1992, and that the two incidents so upset him that he was unable to compete in track contests May 9 and May 10 that were qualifying trials for the 1992 Olympics.

A city attorney’s report said Joyner was spotted driving erratically on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood by officers who mistakenly thought he was in a stolen vehicle. He was later stopped at gunpoint, handcuffed and forced to lie on the ground in a spread-eagle position for about five minutes before officers realized they had misread the personalized license plate on his Nissan 300ZX.


Within moments of his release, Joyner was detained a second time by LAPD officers who believed he had been involved in a hit-and-run incident. After about 20 minutes, he was ruled out as a suspect and released.

Joyner had been awarded the $51,501 after a jury trial but had planned to file a motion for a new trial claiming that U.S. District Judge Terrence Hatter had erred in barring evidence that LAPD officers routinely stop black males and evidence of Joyner’s second stop May 8. The jury verdict was based only on the first incident.

In recommending the settlement, the city attorney’s office said Joyner’s request for a new trial was likely to be granted.