Contra Costa County is negotiating a $ 4.9 million settlement with the family of Laudemer Arboleda, a mentally ill Newark man who was shot and killed nearly three years ago by a Danville sheriff’s deputy, the family’s lawyer said Wednesday.
The announcement came the day after a jury found Deputy Sheriff Andrew Hall guilty of assault with a firearm in Arboleda’s death, but failed to reach a verdict on a more serious manslaughter charge. Prosecutors are still weighing whether they will re-file the manslaughter charge against the deputy – a decision that only six months ago sparked much controversy in the local district attorney’s office.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors “authorized its attorneys to enter into a $ 4.9 million settlement, including attorney fees and costs,” said Susan Shiu, county spokeswoman. The final agreement has not yet been voted on by the county supervisory board.
Family lawyer John Barris welcomed the preliminary settlement, but said it did bring some sadness.
“A settlement by itself doesn’t make anyone whole – it certainly doesn’t make a whole family,” Burris said. “The message he has to send is that human life is of great importance and that if you take it wrong, that we believe a significant amount of money needs to be paid.”
The jury’s decision and pending settlement pushes Contra Costa County into unprecedented territory when it comes to officer misconduct allegations.
The verdict was the first conviction against a Contra Costa County law enforcement officer for shooting police on duty. Hall faces up to 17 years in prison when he is sentenced in January for the November 2018 shooting.
Contra Costa County Superior Court Justice Terry Mockler announced a wrong trial on Tuesday on a more serious manslaughter charge after the jury president said the panel was “hopelessly deadlocked” 7-5. Mockler categorically forbids the master to show in which direction the scale tilts.
If approved, Shiu said the settlement would be the largest in the county in a lawsuit.
Earlier this year, the city of Santa Clara agreed to pay $ 5.3 million to the family of Jesus Jani Montes, who was suffering from mental illness when he was shot by police. In 2020, Walnut Creek paid $ 4 million to the family of Miles Hall, a mentally ill man shot by police a year earlier.
There is no national database of convictions against law enforcement officials. But convictions in cases involving the use of force by an officer, even on charges not directly related to anyone’s death, are extremely rare, legal experts say.
However, a wider cultural shift could be taking place inside and outside the courtroom as more clashes with police are filmed. Many prosecutors have also shown a great willingness to press charges against officers – especially after the assassination of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis and the subsequent conviction of former police officer Derek Choven of his death.
Some legal experts said the verdict could push prosecutors to press charges in future police misconduct cases, despite Hall’s jury deadlocked on the most serious charges. Tuesday’s verdict is noteworthy given that the jury has long been reluctant to question the judgments of officers when they had to make decisions in a split second.
“Few prosecutors would consider such a result a defeat or a reason not to go forward,” said Jonathan Simon, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Offering a measure of acquittal for Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Beckton, the verdict serves as a double-edged sword, raising new questions about why charges were not brought earlier in the case, said Michael Cardoza, a Bay Area defense attorney. …
Beckton filed the charges on April 21 this year – two and a half years after the fateful meeting with Danville and a day after the jury found Chauvin guilty of Floyd’s death.
The decision drew opposition from within Becton’s office when four prosecutors filed a protest letter, arguing that “delays, as in this case, create confusion that justifiably undermines public and law enforcement confidence in the process.”
The Arboleda family also criticized the delay, claiming it proved fatal in March this year when Hall was sent on patrol again and then shot and killed by a homeless man who lived in Danville.
Cardoza said: “This shows that the charge should have been filed a long time ago – it shows that they were playing politics.”
The criminal case revolved around a central question: whether Hall was acting in self-defense when he pulled up in front of Arboleda’s car after a slow car chase through Danville. Hall shot Arboled 10 times, killing him.
The jury’s verdict on the assault charge against Hall specifically focused on whether he shot Arboleda unlawfully and seriously injured him.
One law professor expressed less confidence that convictions in cases like Hall’s could spur wider change in district attorney offices across the country. “The facts of every case are different, and predicting jury decisions is always dangerous,” said David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University.
“It is difficult to interpret any result, in one criminal case, any broader understanding of the schemes of prosecution, because each criminal case is unique,” he said.