Local News

Tuesday, Apr 14 2009 09:56 AM

County settles jail death lawsuit for $6 million

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    James Moore is pictured in this file photo.

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    By Felix Adamo

    Kern County detention deputies Roxanne Fowler, Ralph Contreras and Daniel Thomas Lindini appear at their preliminary hearing in this file photo. The three are facing murder charges in the beating death of jail inmate James Moore.

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    By Casey Christie

    Casey Christie / The Californian After a press conference by attorney Daniel Rodriguez, regarding the 2005 jail beating death of James Moore Michelle Tripp, right, Bryce Moore's mother, hugs Alicia Moore, mother of James Moore Jr., in front of the downtown Liberty Bell Tuesday afternoon. Attorneys in the case settled for more than $6 million dollars.

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    By Casey Christie

    Casey Christie / The Californian Daniel Rodriguez, second from left, talks to the media during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in front of the Liberty Bell regarding a lawsuit over the 2005 jail beating death of James Moore which settled for over $6 million dollars. Michelle Tripp, Bryce Moore's mother, left, Alicia Moore, mother of James Moore Jr., and attorney David Cohen, right.

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BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

The settlement in a jail beating death case is huge — more than $6 million — but attorneys who brought the case against Kern County said a jury verdict could have been in the $20 to $25 million range.

Nonetheless, the attorneys said Tuesday they accepted less because the criminal and civil cases might have taken another seven to nine years to resolve.

The attorneys said the settlement sends a strong message to law enforcement that the beating of “a completely defenseless” inmate will not be tolerated.

James Moore, 30, died after being beaten by downtown jail detention deputies on Aug. 15, 2005, prosecutors have said.

Money from the settlement will be paid out over the years to Moore’s sons — Bryce, 5, and James Jr., 16.

The payments could begin as early as this summer pending approval of the judge in the case, said attorneys Daniel Rodriguez who represented Bryce and attorney David Cohn who represented James Jr.

About a quarter of the settlement, about $1.5 million,  will be claimed by the attorneys.

Chief Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations said the county agreed to the settlement because “there was a strong likelihood they (the defendants) would have been found liable” in Moore’s death.

The defendants included three detention deputies who are awaiting a trial on murder charges in Moore’s death, as well as other deputies who saw the events unfold.

The defendants do not include Deputy Brian Carr whose eyewitness account led to murder charges.

Rodriguez said “as many as 14 detention officers...beat, hit, kicked, kneed, punched, choked, taunted, mocked, tormented an inmate that was handcuffed and shackled.

“During this entire ordeal, the inmate was pleading, ‘Help me, help me, they’re killing me’.”

The mothers of the boys, Michelle Tripp (Bryce) and Alicia Moore Whitaker (James Jr.) were not married to Moore and cannot share in the settlement, the attorneys said.

Moore, a big man, had been arrested for allegedly threatening Tripp.

He struggled off and on for hours with detention deputies. At one point a detention sergeant put a “carotid hold” — a kind of choke hold — on Moore.

Criminal defense attorneys have blamed this hold for Moore’s death.

Near the end of the incident, Carr said he saw Moore being punched and kicked and described the attack as excessive force.

Moore stopped breathing, but was revived and taken to a hospital where he died about a week later from blunt force and brain trauma, officials reported.

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