The city has paid $312,500 to settle a lawsuit that alleges one of its officers broke a handcuffed woman’s arm as he slammed her against a police car.
Modesto-area resident Yesenia Jimenez sued Ceres and police Officer Frederico Ortiz in federal court in July 2013, claiming, among other things, civil rights violations, assault and battery, and false arrest. Jimenez was represented by San Francisco attorney Sanjay Schmidt.
Ceres admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement and denied the allegations in court filings. The filings also claim that because the police acted in good faith and without malice and with the reasonable belief its actions were legal, the city is legally protected.
Ceres was represented by attorney Cornelius Callahan with the Modesto law firm Borton Petrini. He said it was a business decision to settle by the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority. Ceres pays the authority an annual amount to handle claims and lawsuits filed against the city.
City Manager Toby Wells said the authority is paying the settlement and the city’s legal costs. Callahan said the legal costs are roughly $37,500. Wells said Ceres paid the authority about $460,000 in its current fiscal year for liability coverage.
Jimenez was among a couple hundred people at a party at a residence in the 3400 block of McGee Road just outside the city Aug. 10, 2012. Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies were summoned to respond to a noise complaint; Ceres officers arrived to help the deputies.
Schmidt said people were leaving the party, and Jimenez and her friends were walking in the street to their car. He said Ortiz called out to the group and that Jimenez “made some sassy remark to the officer.” He said Ortiz removed her from the group and handcuffed her.
Schmidt said Jimenez and one of her friends claim that while Jimenez was handcuffed and facing a police car, Ortiz lifted her handcuffed arms and slammed her into the car, causing the bone in her right arm between the elbow and shoulder to break in three places. Schmidt said Jimenez underwent surgery two days later and had two follow-up procedures.
“The only dispute,” Schmidt said, “is how much force he used. Jimenez described it as a very forceful, quick movement that caused her arm to break.” He said two medical experts concluded that Ortiz’s actions were the cause of Jimenez’s broken arm.
Schmidt said Ortiz demonstrated what he had done at the deposition and depicted himself using significantly less force than what Jimenez claimed. Ortiz testified that he used the maneuver on Jimenez because she was turning her body, according to Schmidt.
Schmidt said while Jimenez – who he said was 18 at the time – was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication and resisting arrest and taken to the Public Safety Center, prosecutors never filed charges against her. He also disputed city officials’ contention that Jimenez was intoxicated. He said while she had had something to drink earlier in the day, she was in full control of her faculties.