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California

Suit over Glendale officer’s affair with defendant’s wife dismissed

A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against Glendale on Thursday by a man who said he was wrongly prosecuted because his estranged wife was having an affair with a police officer on the case.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals condemned the police officer’s conduct but said the arrest and prosecution were warranted by the evidence.

“This is not the first case we have had in recent months in which a police officer in Los Angeles County has engaged in similar conduct with a woman involved in a case which the officer was assigned to investigate,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the three-member panel.

Glendale fired Officer Michael Lizarraga after learning of the affair. Lizarraga had arrested Robert Yousefian, a lawyer, in 2007 for hitting his father-in-law with a glass candlestick. Yousefian claimed he acted in self-defense after the elderly man hit him with his case.

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Yousefian’s wife provided evidence against her husband and then engaged in an affair with the arresting officer, the court said.

Yousefian was eventually acquitted of assault and elder abuse charges.

“We would urge municipalities and other employers of law enforcement officers to ensure that conduct like Lizarraga’s is neither permitted in the course of officers’ official duties  nor condoned thereafter,” Reinhardt wrote.

In December, the court upheld the dismissal of a similar case in which a West Covina police officer had an affair with an alleged rape victim. The court said the officer, Tyler Kennedy, also wrote a book that recommended lying to women to get them to consent to sex.

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The police chief did not fire  Kennedy as a sex crimes specialist because the book did not mention he was a police officer and was written when he was not working, the court said. The Police Department said Kennedy no longer works there.

In Thursday’s decision, the court said the Glendale officer’s “improper conduct” did not affect the decision to arrest and prosecute Yousefian.

Twitter: @mauradolan

 


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