SAN DIEGO — The county of San Diego will pay $1.2 million to eight people who allege they were roughed up by a sheriff’s deputy at a fundraiser last year for Democratic congressional candidate Francine Busby.
The payments will go to three women who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and five others who filed claims with the county. The money will be taken from the Sheriff’s Department budget according to Senior Deputy County Counsel George Brewster.
Shari Barman, Jane Stratton and Pamela Morgan filed a lawsuit in federal court in December, alleging their civil rights were violated by Deputy Marshall Abbott’s actions after he showed up to investigate a noise complaint on June 26, 2009.
When Abbott, a former Marine, asked Barman, who shares the home with Stratton, for her age she refused to give it. He then attempted to make an arrest.
Abbott called for backup resulting in six police cars, a helicopter and a police dog responding to the call. Pepper spray was used as attendees at the fundraiser tried to prevent Abbott from making an arrest.
Barman, 61, and Morgan, 62, were arrested. Barman spent a night in the Vista jail.
After an investigation, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to file charges against any of the people attending the fundraiser. She also concluded that the deputy had done nothing wrong.
The plaintiffs sought monetary damages and policy changes at the Sheriff’s Department.
“This incident and this settlement are a reminder that sheriff’s deputies are not above the law,” said Barman, in a prepared statement at a press conference Oct. 25.
“In this country there are well-defined civil rights that are designed to protect all of us, particularly the sanctity of our homes. It is up to each of us to stand up for these rights,” she said.
Policy changes are already in place, as a 13-page training bulletin on how to handle “loud parties” was distributed in January. Procedures for dealing with disturbances have also been revised. Since the incident, the Sheriff’s Department has revised its policy manual for deputies so that asking ages is no longer required, officials said.
Sheriff Bill Gore, in a written statement, said he was glad to see the issue settled but added that, “I want to emphasize that I am very proud of the work the men and women of this department do every day under difficult circumstances.”