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County Settles Lawsuit Pointing to Deputy

Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to settle a lawsuit brought by a San Juan Capistrano man who said a sheriff’s deputy assaulted him and falsely accused him of a crime.

Neither the county nor the man’s attorney would immediately disclose terms of the settlement.

The controversy started in February 2001, when deputies were summoned to Cory Baima’s home in San Juan Capistrano to investigate a family disturbance. Deputies saw Baima drive away from the home, followed him and forced him to stop his truck.

Baima, 19 at the time, allegedly argued with one deputy before a second, George Kluchonic, arrived and forced Baima onto the hood of a car. Kluchonic pulled one of Baima’s arms behind his back, tugged on his fingers and then choked him “until he was almost unconscious, like a standing blackout,” said Baima’s attorney, Jerry Steering.

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The deputies arrested Baima on suspicion of resisting a peace officer, an allegation Steering said was fabricated. The incident was videotaped from a camera attached to one of the deputies’ patrol cars.

Orange County prosecutors later charged Kluchonic with a misdemeanor attempt to destroy evidence by asking a sheriff’s employee to delete that videotape and a tape of a confrontation with another civilian. A jury deadlocked in that case, and it was dismissed after Kluchonic agreed to quit the force.

Steering said he could not discuss the settlement until both sides signed legal documents next week. “It’s very satisfactory to my client,” he said.

County officials said they would not disclose terms of the settlement until both sides formally agreed to it.

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