Rohnert Park to pay $1.2 million in probation search case
The city of Rohnert Park agreed Tuesday to pay $1.2 million to cover legal fees and money a jury awarded to a Rohnert Park family in a case in which it concluded three officers violated the family’s rights during a 2014 warrantless home search, according to documents filed in a San Francisco federal court. The bulk of the money will go to pay the family’s attorney fees.
The case stems from a 2014 warrantless probation search by Rohnert Park officers Brendon “Jacy” Tatum, Matthew Snodgrass and Dave Rodriguez. The three entered the home of Raul and Elva Barajas searching for their son, Edgar Perez, who was on probation. Tatum entered the home through the back door with his gun drawn, and a jury found in November that all three officers had acted illegally. Following the ruling, a federal judge ordered Rohnert Park leaders to mandate additional training for its officers on lawful conduct of probation searches.
In the November ruling, the jury ordered Rohnert Park to pay $75,000 to the couple, and ordered Tatum to pay an additional $70,000 in punitive damages.
The agreement finalized Tuesday includes the jury verdict plus attorney fees totaling over $1 million for the law firm that represented Raul and Elva Barajas, Morrison & Foerster. Alexis Amezcua, the lead attorney for the couple, said the firm spent more than that on litigation over the four years they worked on the case.
“We’ve compromised our attorney’s fees in order to get finality for our client and final resolution of the matter,” Amezcua said. “The overall case still remains in our view a vindication of privacy rights for California residents and for citizens of Rohnert Park.”
Don Schwartz, assistant city manager of Rohnert Park, said the city does not believe its police officers violated the Barajases’ rights.
“We believe we followed common police practices and the Constitution in the Barajas case,” he said Tuesday. “The judge and the jury clearly disagreed, and we respect that decision.”
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon and asked if the city’s insurance would pay for the settlement, Schwartz said he needed to consult with the city’s attorney on the matter.
You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @iambeale.