Bankruptcy Court Refuses To Allow LAPD Officer To Discharge $900,000 Debt Based On His Malicious Use Of Excessive Force
On Monday, June 30, 2020, a United States Bankruptcy Court granted Summary Judgement against Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Mario Cardona who was attempting to discharge a $900,000 debt resulting from a civil rights excessive force verdict based on his assault of Whittier resident Daniel Garza.
Judge Julia W. Brand based her ruling on the fact that a Los Angeles Federal Court jury found that then Officer Mario Cardona acted with malice when he used excessive force against Garza in the case of Daniel Garza v. Mario Cardona et al, (USDC Case No 2:16-CV-03579-SVW-AFM).
For what is believed to be the first time in Los Angeles Police Department history, the City of Los Angeles refused to indemnify an LAPD Officer for the compensatory damages, costs and attorneys’ fees awarded against him in a civil rights case. Faced with the prospect of paying the verdict out of his own pocket, Cardona turned to the bankruptcy court for relief but was denied. Garza can now begin collection proceedings against Cardona.
Chief Beck promoted Cardona to sergeant three weeks after the jury’s verdict, which held that Cardona violated Garza’s constitutional rights when he repeatedly punched Garza and then twisted Garza’s wrists in a painful wrist lock for more than nine minutes while Garza was handcuffed and lying prone on the ground without resisting. A neighbor videotaped the latter part of the encounter. The video was introduced into evidence at trial. The jury awarded Garza compensatory damages in the amount of $210,000. Trial Judge Stephen Wilson awarded $664,000 in attorneys’ fees and an additional $26,000 in costs post-trial.
“This case is unprecedented,” says civil rights attorney Jim DeSimone of V. James DeSimone Law in Los Angeles. “I am unaware of any other case in California where an officer was found to be on-duty and the involved city or county did not indemnify the officer.”
“While hanging their officers out to dry to pay compensatory damages might deter some officers from engaging in excessive force, it makes it very hard to achieve the goal of compensating victims of excessive force,” says DeSimone.
DeSimone still hopes to hold the City of Los Angeles liable as Garza’s case against the city is on appeal after the July 17, 2019 jury verdict in favor of the City of Los Angeles and former Police Chief Charlie Beck because by not disciplining Cardona and subsequently promoting him, they effectively approved, or ratified, the misconduct.
DeSimone added, “The LAPD had all the evidence we used at trial but exonerated Cardona and then promoted him. This illustrates why people are out in the streets. Officers who injure and kill people unnecessarily are not held accountable for their conduct. “
As for Daniel Garza, DeSimone said, “This case demonstrates how achieving justice for a client is a marathon, not a sprint. Cardona’s assault on Daniel changed the trajectory of Daniel’s life. He now has a Master’s Degree in physical education and kinesiology but is considering going into the military because he can’t find a job in his field. This is why we will pursue every possible avenue obtaining justice for Daniel Garza.”
At V. James DeSimone Law, our Los Angeles employment law and civil rights attorneys are committed to justice. For more than 30 years, we have been focused on representing individuals whose employee or civil rights have been violated. We believe no one should be a victim of such mistreatment, and passionately fight for the individuals who have been. Our team prides itself on being the tenacious advocates these individuals can rely on to pursue justice on their behalf. Jim DeSimone is an award-winning attorney who is recognized as one of the top civil rights lawyers in the State of California.