FREMONT — More than a month after a federal jury decided Fremont owes nearly $10.3 million to the family of a 16-year-old pregnant girl who was fatally shot by some of her police officers, a city judge said. Asking him to downplay the decision. agreed to the amount of damages or a new trial.
A lawyer for Elena Mondragon’s family said the city’s approach is designed to delay justice for the family, more than five years after Mondragon’s death in March 2017.
“The city is burying its head in the sand and wants to ignore the ugly truth that their authorities are responsible for the death of a 16-year-old pregnant girl,” said Adante Pointer, a lawyer for the family. an interview.
“It looks like they’re going to maintain that position, despite the jury’s decision and the public outcry,” Pointer said.
On March 14, 2017, Mondragon was one of four people in a BMW driven by a Ricoh Tiger, a man police wanted on suspicion of several violent armed robberies in the Bay Area. During a covert operation intended to trap Tiger at Hayward, officers fired their rifles at the car, trying to kill Tiger, when he said he drove over one of the officers, and took him to his and another. There was fear for the life of another.
While Tiger was not killed by bullets, Antioch resident Mondragon was killed and later died during emergency surgery. City lawyers argued to the jury that Tiger, not the officer, was responsible for his death.
After a nearly week-long civil trial in San Jose federal court in June—during which the jury heard emotional testimony from Mondragon’s mother, saw photos of Mondragon’s wounded body from a medical examination—and at times heated exchanges between lawyers and witnesses. Provided Saw – The jury returned a historic $21 million verdict for the family.
The jury said that three Fremont officers – Sgt. Jeremy Miscella and officers Joel Hernandez and Ghailon Chaouti – were negligent in their actions and collectively bear 49% responsibility for Mondragon’s death, while Tiger was held responsible for 51%.
It was one of the largest ever paid judgments for a police murder, and possibly the largest payment Fremont has ever been ordered in connection with a police case in the city’s 66-year history. Tiger has been charged with the murder of Mondragon by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities and city lawyers said in a court filing Thursday that “no cost can be placed on the loss of a child,” but said the amount of jury damages awarded to the family is “extremely exorbitant,” given its facts. Given the matter.
The lawyers’ motion states, “Based on the discovery of the jury’s rulings and the settlement of wrongful death proceedings involving the death of a child, the jury’s award in this case will be the largest award given in this district.” “
During the trial, Elena’s mother, Michelle Mondragon, and Elena’s uncle Miguel Minjares testified that Mondragon was “the backbone of the family,” the filing said.
Despite that testimony, Fremont’s attorneys Patrick Moriarty, John Robinson and Maria Nozzolino of the law firm Allen, Glasner, Hazlewood & Worth said in their filing, “The nature of (Michelle’s) relationship with (Elena) and what she contributed, There was insufficient evidence of this. The $21 million award is expected to support the family at the time or in the future.”
Lawyers noted during the trial and in their filings that Elena “had trouble at school, and often left the house without permission.”
Pointer said the city’s latest filing has been “abrasive and offensive” to Elena and her family.
“They want the court to exempt them as this 16-year-old girl was not just a student of honour. As if a person’s love for their child is equal to their GPA,” he said on Friday.
“They get to kill him on sale,” he said.
Pointer said the motions the city has filed are “super longshots” and he thinks they will fail. The city is “trying to throw everything they can against the wall and hopefully something sticks in an attempt to avoid liability or duck,” he said.
Fremont City Attorney Rafael Alvarado Jr. said in an email that the city would record the motions, but declined to be interviewed about the decision. He did not say whether the city would appeal the matter to the higher court if its current motion fails.
In recent weeks, Alvarado has also declined requests from the news organization to provide information on how much the litigation has cost the city more than four years, citing attorney-client privilege.
Damage to the family, if the city eventually complies with the payment, will be funded by a shared risk pool that the city pays each year with other cities and a group of government organizations, called the California Joint Powers Risk Management Authority. goes. , Alvarado said.
Pointer said he would not be surprised if the city chose to appeal, but added that he hoped it would not.
“Hopefully this turns into a situation where we convince them to allow them to stop victimizing this family through scorched-earth litigation and pay whatever they owe,” They said.
“To this family, who has been drugged through this ordeal for more than five years, for the sake of decency, allow them to at least close the chapter on this sad, tragic book.”
Staff writer Nate Gartrell contributed to this report.