Monday, July 28, 2014     Volume: 28, Issue: 52
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New Times / Breaking News Story


Paso settles excessive force suit

BY RYAN MILLER

The city of Paso Robles has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last year by Rodi Bragg, who alleged that Officer Jeffry Bromby used excessive force to arrest her for a minor offense--shoplifting a bottle of juice or water--outside of Scolari's Market on July 30, 2010. The city will pay her $50,000.

New Times first reported on this story in August 2011, posting accompanying video of the arrest online. Bragg—whose full name is Rodi’a Monterroso-Bragg—claimed she suffered burns and scarring after Bromby forced her into contact with asphalt that had been baking under the summer sun.

Bragg was ultimately charged with petty theft, battery, and resisting arrest. She pleaded guilty to petty theft and was sentenced to community service; the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the other charges.

On Feb. 21, 2012, she sent a letter to the city, asking for $50,000 in compensation for her injuries. When she didn’t get a response, she filed a suit against Bromby on July 18, 2012—also naming the former and active chiefs of police and the city manager as plaintiffs, alleging the Paso Robles Police Department lacked adequate policies regarding use of force.

San Luis Obispo attorney David S. Vogel told New Times that attorneys representing the city eventually deposed Bragg for five hours, after which the suit against the city—which no longer included individual named defendants aside from Bromby—settled for $50,000 late last year, “a good resolution.”

Marlaine Sanders, human resources manager for the city, confirmed the settlement to New Times. Dirk Degenna, who represented the city in the suit, hadn’t returned requests for comment as of this printing.

“He didn’t take it easy on us, but on the other hand, he didn’t make it unnecessarily hard,” Vogel said of Degenna, praising him as a reasonable and professional attorney.

“I cannot fault Paso for how they handled the lawsuit once it was filed,” Vogel told New Times. “They didn’t pull any shenanigans. They didn’t make this hard.”

Bromby resigned from the department for undisclosed reasons on June 30, 2011, after spending the bulk of a year on administrative leave. Lisa Solomon resigned as Paso Robles’ chief of police on March 20, 2012, amid accusations of retaliation and sexual harassment by Paso Robles police officers.

“This case brought needed attention to the responsibility of police officers to treat all citizens with respect and dignity,” Vogel said in a press release. “The settlement in this case demonstrates the city’s recognition of that responsibility as it moves beyond its police department’s sordid past.”

Robert Burton, who had also been named in the initial suit, is currently the city’s acting chief of police. Mayor Duane Picanco reported at the start of the year that the city’s top pick for a permanent chief, Manny Guaderrama, withdrew his name for the position.

Bragg was also represented by Mark Feeser.