A judge on Tuesday upheld an $8.1-million jury award for a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who said he was subjected to harassing conduct and retaliation for questioning the accuracy of his trainers’ police reports and their reasons for making some traffic stops.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason denied motions by lawyers for the county for a new trial or for the judge to declare there there was no factual basis for the jury’s verdict. Both motions rested on the county’s their claims that the jury was not properly instructed before rendering its Oct. 4 verdict in favor of 37-year-old Andrew Rodriguez.
Rodriguez testified that his first two trainers at the Industry sheriff’s station, Joanne Arcos and Timmy Nakamura, engaged in what he believed were unconstitutional traffic stops and detentions of potential suspects that could have led to both him and the trainers going to federal prison.
Attorney Mira Hashmall, arguing on behalf of the county, said there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to support Rodriguez’s claims of a hostile work environment and retaliation. In addition, she said, the instructions to the jury were flawed.
But the judge disagreed.
Rodriguez, who filed his lawsuit in October 2017, was assigned as a trainee at the Industry station in December 2013 after earlier stints in the county jails and as a bailiff in Compton Superior Court and the Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park.
Current Undersheriff Timothy Murakami was a captain and the head of the Industry station when Rodriguez was a trainee there.
Rodriguez testified that Arcos told him to falsely state in a report that a methamphetamine pipe found after a suspect’s SUV was stopped was recovered from the motorist’s clothing when it was actually found in the vehicle’s console.
Rodriguez said that when he asked Arcos for her legal justification in stopping the motorist, she refused to answer. He said he also saw her make questionable searches of the trunks of vehicles during traffic stops.
Both Arcos and Nakamura denied any wrongdoing.
Rodriguez claimed Murakami told him in August and September 2014 that he would “find something” to get Rodriguez fired.
Rodriguez is currently an unpaid, inactive member of the department. His attorney, Maria Diaz, said it was her client’s dream to work in law enforcement, but that his opportunity is now likely closed because of the lawsuit.