County ordered to pay officer, brother

Ben Godar

A jury has awarded a Burbank Police officer and his brother $80,000

after determining the siblings were illegally arrested by L.A. County

sheriff's deputies at a concert nearly two years ago.

Officer Anthony Valento and his brother, Joseph, were arrested

during a July 2001 concert by pop-punk band Offspring at Universal

Amphitheater. The brothers were initially charged with several

crimes, including inappropriately touching two girls, public

intoxication and disturbing the peace by fighting. Joseph Valento

also was charged with felony sexual assault.

But in April 2002, the district attorney's office dropped all

criminal charges against the two, saying only that there were

problems with the identification of the men. Anthony Valento was also

cleared of any wrongdoing in September by a Burbank Police Department

internal review.

A lawsuit filed by the brothers against StaffPro Security and

several of its guards was settled out of court in late March for an

undisclosed amount, according to the brothers' attorney, Robert

Walters. In the complaint, the brothers claimed they were punched and

kicked by guards at the venue.

A separate lawsuit naming a lieutenant and two deputies with the

Sheriff's Department went to trial, and last week the jury awarded

$40,000 each to Anthony and Joseph Valento.

In the verdict reached April 24, the jury found Lt. Brad Welker

and deputies Douglas Gillies and Edward O'Neil had illegally arrested

Joseph Valento, and that Welker and Gillies illegally arrested

Anthony Valento.

Walters said the settlement amount was smaller than what his

clients were seeking, but that the main goal of the lawsuit was to

clear their names.

"We had to exonerate their names and reputations, and the only way

to do that was to go to trial and get a jury to do that," Walters

said. "They were not seeking a ton of money -- the objective was not

to make money."

While Walters said the Valento brothers are looking forward to

putting the incident behind them, the decision by the jury might not

be the end of the case. Donna Koch, senior deputy county counsel,

would not say if the county would appeal the jury's award. She said

only that the county is looking at its options.

However the case resolves itself, Walters said the allegations

were so damaging neither brother will be able to pursue a career in

law enforcement.

"Joseph will never become a police officer, and Anthony will never

be promoted," he said.

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