Costa Mesa man receives settlement from city

COSTA MESA — The city has settled a federal lawsuit filed by a man who claimed a police officer arrested him after planting fraudulent evidence.

The multimillion dollar lawsuit was settled for $150,000. The settlement protects the city from further litigation related to the case and does not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the city.

Timothy Slappy filed the complaint against Costa Mesa asserting that his civil rights were violated in March 2009 when a Costa Mesa police Officer Robert Harris questioned him and then allegedly planted a powdery white substance next to him. Harris, according to the lawsuit, said the substance was crack cocaine. He then arrested Slappy.

Harris has since been let go from the department but it is unclear whether Slappy's allegations about him were true.

The substance at the scene was not cocaine, or any drug for that matter, according to the lawsuit.

Slappy said in his lawsuit that he was unaware that the powder tested negative as a narcotic. He pleaded guilty in court to avoid a lengthy jail sentence because he has previous convictions and felt being a black man in Orange County would work against him.

Though Slappy knew he was innocent, he didn't see a chance to prove it until 2010, according to the lawsuit.

He was summoned to court to testify against Harris, who was being investigated after more than two dozen citizen complaints were filed against him. Slappy's conviction was eventually thrown out and wiped from his record.

"I think the city did its best to be fair," said Bruce Bridgeman, Slappy's attorney. "They had a rogue cop on their hands."

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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