June 27, 2012 at 10:01 AM
‘Mexican piss’ lawsuit settled for $150,000
A civil-rights lawsuit stemming from a Seattle police officer’s threat to beat the “Mexican piss” out of a Latino man during a robbery investigation in 2010 has been settled for $150,000, the man’s attorney announced at a news conference this morning.
The suit, brought by Martin Monetti Jr., the target of the comment, alleged that Officer Shandy Cobane also kicked him in the head and hand during the incident caught on video. The lawsuit sought unspecified general and punitive damages for alleged civil-rights violations, unreasonable use of force, assault and battery, outrageous conduct, emotional harm and intentional discrimination.
Cobane sparked a public outcry when video emerged of the April 17, 2010, incident in which he was heard telling Monetti he was going to “beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, named the city, Cobane and Officer Mary L. Woollum, who participated in the detention of Monetti.
A settlement in the case was not unexpected after U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez last week denied a request by city attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit. Martinez found that excessive-force claims may be raised at trial regarding the actions of Cobane and Woollum.
The settlement was announced by Lorena Gonzalez, a lawyer for Monetti.
Cobane was suspended by Police Chief John Diaz for 30 days for the “Mexican piss” remark — the most severe punishment allowed short of firing.
Cobane, a decorated officer who has served on the department for more than 17 years, also was demoted from gang detective to officer as a result of the incident. He promised to meet with Latino groups to repair relations and agreed to speak to other officers about the importance of racial and ethnic sensitivity.
He also submitted to additional training and accepted a “last-chance” agreement with the department, under which he would be fired for engaging in any other serious misconduct.
Diaz said that if officers use such language in the future, they will be fired. He said he would have fired Cobane if not for legal advice that the action would be overturned.
Cobane drew condemnation from civil-rights and minority organizations, and the incident was one of several that prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to open a broad civil-rights investigation that found Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of excessive force.
Monetti was one of three men detained by Cobane and other officers during a robbery investigation in the South Lake Union area.
After Monetti moved a hand to his face while lying on the ground, Cobane is seen on the video apparently trying to stop the movement with his boot.
Moments later, Woollum is seen stepping on Monetti.
Two of the three men, including Monetti, were freed, while another suspect was arrested nearby.
Two men were each later convicted of robbery and other charges and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
Monetti testified against both men.
According to the lawsuit, Monetti went with two friends to the China Harbor Restaurant on the night of April 16, 2010, to celebrate his 21st birthday.
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The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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