Jurors in a trial brought by an Armenian American Burbank police detective who alleged he was harassed and faced discrimination were asked by his attorney Tuesday to award him $600,000 to $1 million.
In his closing arguments in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Solomon Gresen, who is representing police Det. Steve Karagiosian, told jurors that the city does not deny that ethnic slurs were made, but instead is downplaying their significance.
“The defense is not saying it didn’t happen,” Gresen said. “Other than [former Police Chief Tim] Stehr denying it, there is no evidence it didn’t happen — clearly it happened.”
And, he said, “it was frequent and prevalent.”
On Monday, former Sgt. Jose Cruz Duran testified that he worked alongside Karagiosian in late summer of 2008 when he reported an incident involving three detectives who were attempting to mimic an Armenian accent as Karagiosian walked by.
Duran also said he was with Stehr when Armenian slurs were used, and that when he took his concerns directly to the chief, Stehr said he was “sick and tired of complaints and he was not going to investigate and that people just have to work together.”
Lawrence Michaels, an attorney for the city, noted that Duran has a pending lawsuit against Burbank and that he was investigated for misconduct during the Porto’s Bakery robbery in 2007.
Michaels also noted that the incidents Karagiosian complained to Duran about — including insensitive comments on a white board, and that another officer drew his weapon and pointed it at Karagiosian — had been investigated.
A psychiatrist hired by the city to evaluate Karagiosian described him in court on Monday as “detail oriented” and a “perfectionist” who also had a “defensive, paranoid stance.”
In addition to being narcissistic and deeply insecure, the psychiatrist testified that Karagiosian was in a frequent state of “puffing oneself up.”
“The law doesn’t prohibit . . . stupid remarks,” Michaels said.
He also referred to a “zero-tolerance memo” that Stehr issued after an anonymous letter surfaced citing racial discrimination in the department.
Gresen told jurors that they should determine that Karagiosian was subjected to continuous harassment before and after May 27, 2008, which is a year before he filed his claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Should the jury find that the harassment was not was continuous, Karagiosian could be awarded about half the requested amount, he said.