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Utopia Talk / Politics / Criminals must not sue cops
| Sun Sep 29 03:41:41|
They protect and serve and should be immune for that reason.
Three Fresno cops accused of stealing $225K are ‘immune’ from suit, appeals court says
By Robert Rodriguez
September 25, 2019
A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of three Fresno police officers who were accused of stealing more than $225,000 in cash and rare coins during an investigation into an alleged illegal gambling operation in 2013.
Fresno businessmen Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian sued the City of Fresno and officers Derik Kumagai, Curt Chastain and Tomas Cantu, alleging they stole cash and coins while serving a search warrant on their homes and business.
Jessop and Ashjian operated an automated teller machine business.
At the time of the investigation, police said they seized $50,000 and booked it into evidence. But Jessop and Ashjian said they had $151,380 in cash and another $125,000 in rare coins, according to court documents. They believe the three officers pocketed all but $50,000.
Ashjian said Tuesday he was disappointed with the appeal’s court decision, but he also isn’t done fighting. He plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is upsetting,” Ashjian said. “To know that if the police have a search warrant that’s valid, they could steal your things and you don’t have the ability to pursue it.”
Attorneys for the officers had no comment. “As a policy, we don’t discuss pending or ongoing litigation,” a statement from the City of Frenso read.
No charges were ever filed against Jessop and Ashjian. Court records show police seized what they called illegal coin-operated gaming machines.
But Ashjian said they were nothing more than arcade games, where you try and push quarters to earn a prize. The police confiscated two games that were placed in retail stores.
“It’s no different than the type of game you find at Chuck E. Cheese,” Ashjian said.
Ashjian said he and Jessop filed a claim with the City of Fresno, but were unsuccessful in recovering their money and coins.
They filed a civil lawsuit in 2015 after they discovered one of the officers, Kumagai, was arrested on a federal charge of taking a $20,000 bride from a drug dealer. He later pleaded guilty, and is no longer a Fresno police officer.
Ashjian said he and Jessop alleged in their lawsuit the police violated their Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unlawful search and seizure. A federal judge didn’t agree and dismissed the lawsuit two years later, saying the police had a valid search warrant, even if the officers allegedly stole money.
That decision was upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 4.
In the decision, the justices determined even though the three officers may have been morally wrong for allegedly stealing the money, they didn’t violate the Constitution’s protections against unlawful search and seizure and due process.
The court also agreed the officers had “qualified immunity,” meaning government officials — including a police officers — are protected from liability for civil damages if their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.
“We sympathize with Appellants,” wrote Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. in the decision. “They allege the theft of their personal property by police officers sworn to uphold the laws. If the City Officers committed the acts alleged, their actions were morally reprehensible. Not all conduct that is improper or morally wrong, however violates the Constitution.”
Ashjian, who operates more than 500 automatic teller machines in the state, said the case isn’t about the money anymore.
“It is just absurd that the process can be like this,” he said. “I am about as pro cop as anybody, but what happened doesn’t make any sense.”
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