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Jury Clears Deputies Involved in Rancho Palos Verdes Scuffle

Steven Sartori had argued deputies used unreasonable force in restraining him. LASD said officers reacted accordingly when the suspect spat on them.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A federal jury cleared Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies of wrongdoing in a case arising out of a hit-and-run in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The lawsuit alleged that three deputies and two sergeants unreasonably attempted to detain Steven Sartori, a hit-and-run suspect, and unreasonably searched his room on Oct. 2, 2010, according to an LASD press release.

Sartori, 23 at the time, was arrested after he crashed his truck about half a mile from his Rancho Palos Verdes home and left the scene. He told deputies his mother had been driving, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles County prosecutors charged Sartori with battery and assault on sheriff's deputies for spitting on them, and also for possessing marijuana found in his home. However, a judge dismissed the assault charge during the trial and a jury found him no guilty of the other charges, the Times reported. He was never charged with the hit-and-run.

Sartori then sued the sheriff’s department in federal court, where lawyers for the county asserted that because the suspect physically resisted and spit in the face of a sergeant, deputies applied a reasonable use of force, including taking the suspect to the ground and using pepper spray, according to a sheriff’s press release.

LASD noted Sartori suffered minor injuries and maintained that a search that resulted in the recovery of marijuana was lawful. 

During testimony, the plaintiff admitted he lied to deputies at the scene, lied to a sergeant during the use of force investigation, and lied to county attorneys while under oath during his deposition, according to the press release.

After two hours of deliberation, the federal civil jury returned a unanimous verdict of no liability on the part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Friday. 

In his closing remarks, Judge S. James Otero commended the sheriff's deputies for their restraint during the use of force and said he would entertain a motion from the Sheriff's Department to recover fees from the plaintiff, according to the press release.

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