Court Denies Reimbursement to Convicted Officers
Aug. 08, 1996
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Two former police officers convicted in the Rodney King beating can't get their $500,000 legal tab paid by the city of Los Angeles, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
King, whose pummeling by officers after a high-speed chase in March 1991 was captured on videotape, has already been granted $1.6 million in legal fees from the city, as well as $3.8 million in damages.
But Sgt. Stacey Koon and Officer Laurence Powell aren't entitled to the same treatment, since they were public employees who were found to have acted with malice toward King, the appeals court ruled.
Koon and Powell were acquitted of brutality charges in state court but convicted by a federal jury of violating King's civil rights, Powell by beating King and Koon by failing to prevent the assault.
The two have served 30-month prison terms and await resentencing by U.S. District Judge John Davies because higher courts found he considered some improper factors in granting leniency.
The jury awarded damages jointly against the officers and the city, paid by the city. Koon and Powell didn't have to pay any damages, but they ran up legal bills of about $500,000 and sought reimbursement from the city.
The city refused, citing a state law that allows a government agency to refuse to represent an employee in a lawsuit if the agency believes the employee acted out of fraud, corruption or malice.
Davies agreed with the city, saying malice was established in the criminal cases, and was upheld by the appeals court.
``When law enforcement officers betray the public trust and commit criminal acts with deliberate wrongful intent, the public should not be required to indemnify them,'' said Judge Sidney Thomas in the 3-0 appellate ruling.
Steven Freeburg, who represented Koon and Powell in the appeal, could not be reached for comment.