Police Chief Magnus, Richmond, cleared of wrongdoing in racial discrimination suit

chris magnus

Police Chief Chris Magnus addresses media after the verdict was read this summer. (Robert Rogers/RichmondConfidential)

Police Chief Chris Magnus, retired Deputy Chief Lori Ritter and the city of Richmond were cleared by a Contra Costa County jury on Tuesday of racial discrimination and harassment charges.

Seven high-ranking African American police officials had sought damages of around $18 million for what they alleged were a series of racial digs as well as systemic discrimination by Magnus and Ritter, both of whom are white. The jury ruled that the plaintiffs were entitled to nothing.

“I’ve been overwhelmed throughout this whole trial from the community support we’ve gotten,” Magnus said to a gaggle of reporters atop the steps in front of Contra Costa County Superior Court. “It’s just been tremendous. This is one of the most difficult things I have ever been through in my life.”

As the jury’s verdict was read, plaintiff Sgt. James Jenkins slumped in his chair. Fellow plaintiff Lt. Johan Simon and others rushed to Jenkins’ aid. After spending a few moments laying on his back on the courtroom floor, Jenkins managed to rise and was helped from the courtroom, his necktie loosened and dress shirt unbuttoned. Jenkins and fellow plaintiff Lt. Shawn Pickett did not return to the proceedings.

Tuesday’s verdict was the culmination of a suit that was first filed in 2007. Court proceedings began in early January. In addition to Jenkins, Pickett and Simon, the other plaintiffs were Lts. Arnold Threets, Cleveland Brown and Michael Booker, and Capt. Eugene McBride.

The plaintiffs alleged that Magnus disfavored African American staff, made insensitive remarks and retaliated against subordinates who questioned his methods. Throughout the trial, the defense attorneys argued that the plaintiffs were motivated by their resistance to change brought by a new chief. Magnus was hired in 2006.

Outside the courtroom, Threets said he respected the jury for their public service, but disagreed with the decision. ”I respect the process, but I’m profoundly disappointed,” Threets said. “Evil won, man, in my personal opinion … that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Defense attorney Geoffrey Spellberg said he hopes the sweeping victory will dissuade the plaintiffs from pursuing further litigation in federal court, which is scheduled to hear the case in November.

“We’d like to reach out to the plaintiffs and their lawyers and see if it’s unnecessary to go forward with [the federal case] in light of the verdict today,” Spellberg said.

Speaking before his attorney, Spellberg, Magnus addressed a range of issues on the steps of the courthouse. He said the Richmond Police Department was full of “first rate” officers and police managers, that the verdict was also an “endorsement” of the work done by the men and women in uniform, and that the future was bright for the department because of its staff. Magnus also said he had no problem with working with the men who sued him.

“I bear no animosity toward anyone, I want to be able to move forward,” Magnus said. “I feel badly if anyone of (the plaintiffs) is going through a rough time right now. I know if I was in their shoes I would be feeling that as well.”

The defense victory was costly for both sides. The city, which decided early on with a unanimous council vote to back Magnus and fight the charges, spent in the neighborhood of $4 million on legal costs.

Councilman Nat Bates issued a statement via email minutes after the verdict.

“It’s good news the city is not liable where the costs could have been millions of dollars to the plaintiffs,” Bates wrote.

28 Comments

  1. Andres Soto

    The verdict was a clean sweep for the city. It costs &6 million in legal fees to defend the city. These cops were lying on the stand and to the public. I hope these guys have insurance!!! Corky Boozé’s presence in this photo is repulsive since he posed and sided with the plaintiffs when they brought their allegations forward. He is such an opportunist and racist, I hope he is ultimately recalled!!!

    • I’m with Andres (hey-I just saw you on Ch 2), but I hope they DON’T have insurance! These con-men are out and out grifters who saw the COR as a deep pocket, but who were waaaaaaaaaay too stupid to pull it off-their story was thinner than one-pea soup. If they had ANY integrity they’d leave the RPD asap. What losers! And Corky! I sure made a mistake voting for him.

      • Louis Calabro

        Are they currently receiving pay even if they are not working.
        Will they be eligible for State Disability pay. I get a feeling these guy will suck our governments dry if they can get away with it. They are a bunch of cons.

      • Mike, your last sentence is present in a LOT of our minds….

  2. Sandra Whisler

    I’m hoping that we can resist the urge to dish the plaintiffs as much as we can. Regardless of their motivations, the harm of their actions, etc., there will be many Richmond citizens who will be inclined to identify with them, people whose life experiences made them inclined to believe the officers’ story. We don’t make it easy for community healing to begin when we gloat in our victory or badmouth the plaintiffs.
    That said, I think the chief has done a great job and am glad that justice was served.
    Sandra

    • Ano

      Its all about money

    • Don Gosney

      It’s difficult to take the position that by-gones should be by-gones.

      These officers–and their supporters–called us all racists. They called the chief a racist and we were all racists if we stood by him.

      We’re even seeing charges of racism in these comments (see the above comment by Mr. Soto).

      These are difficult allegations to put aside.

      We can all say what we will about how we’re going to put this all behind us but this is a bell that can’t be unrung.

      From the start, this was a case where it was clear that no matter what the verdict, there would remain so much bad blood that the losing side would have to leave this community. There is such a lack of trust, now, that conciliatory hugs and kisses are out of the question.

    • I absolutely agree with you, Sandra. It behooves us all to follow the example of Chief Magnus and take the high road on this. No good will come of bad-mouthing the plaintiffs.

  3. Isabella Wheeler

    I was inclined to be a supporter of the Chief, who I had hoped would bring positive change to the City of Richmond. I supported him throughout this trial, and thought this was the right thing to do, until I watched tonights’ 11 o’clock news on channel 7. I am very dissapointed in Chief Magnus, and am angered that he basically admitted in his interview to saying racially offensive statements. He expressed regret in how he intially handled the situation; and said he was sorry and hoped he and the plaintiffs could move forward. Why didn’t the Chief say this to the plaintiffs to begin with! Millions of dollars could have been saved that have been spent in his defense, The police department wouldn’t be in shambles, and making Richmond safer would be the priority as it should be. Instead, he admitted fault on camera after years and millions of dollars of wasted. Did those officers deserve millions? Maybe not, but it is now quite clear they deserved at least validation. The jury, which the news said was majority white, failed. Instead of Richmond being in the news for positvity, it is in the news for scandal. Again. The Chief may have won, but Richmond and the people who live here have lost.

    • Louis Calabro

      Let’s see, you watched the 11 O’Clock news and made a decision on th entire case. Wow, maybe they can use you insted of our Civil Judicial system. You’re marvelous. Yeh, !!!!

    • Chris Magnus

      Ms. Wheeler,

      You must have misheard my comments when I was interviewed by Ch. 7 (I went back and listened to the interview). I acknowledged, as I always have, that I made some comments back in 2006 that were “inappropriate,” but I never said my comments were racist or intentionally offensive to anyone. I cannot get into the details of the lawsuit, but I will defend my remarks to the reporter from Ch. 7, which you have misstated.

      None of us are perfect. I readily admit that if I would have said some things differently if I could go back in time, but I have never made racist comments and I appreciate the City of Richmond defending me, the retired Deputy Chief, and itself from false claims to the contrary.

      • Jaime R.

        I’m a college student who had to talk about this article in class for HW (Criminal Justice Major). Since the Chief is here personally adressing( more like passive agressively attacking people)I have a few comments.

        Chief Christopher Magnus,
        You have LOST your mind. You can not tell anybody how they should or should not feel. Who do you think you are! How dare you try to passively agressively reprimand someone and stifle their freedom of speech because you dont like what they said. You seem like you are used to MANIPULATING and BULLYING people into siding with you because your the “Chief” and in a position of power. When a man shows you who he is people, dont turn a deaf ear and cover your eyes! Cause Christopher Magnus definitetely showed on this comment board who he really is! Instead of policing a comment board, go police crazy Richmond! Some “Chief” you are to find time to make comments on a website, while Richmond is still one of the MOST DANGEROUS CITIES IN THE NATION!!!! I wonder how much you get paid to to sit on the net protecting your virtue while people are getting shot up in your city!!!! You are a MAN and a CHIEF, so act like one! You willingly signed up to and willingly accepted the job of ensuring the safety of 1000′s of people, In a city where the majority is Black and Hispanic. No one made you go to Richmond, just like no one made you say “inappropriate” comments that could be taken the wrong way in a community made of minorities! You have free will buddy! Now deal with the consequences of your OWN entrapment! After reading your response, I’m 100% convinced you and the others are GUILTY! You are a little too defensive and sensitive for someone who keeps claiming their “innocent.” You got let off the hook by a WHITE JURY that I bet you payed off! Since it’s clear you have NO ETHICS, CLASS or HUMILITY, and will probably attack my comment or send your brigades to do it for you, I will MAKE SURE I post this webpage to every blog and site I can find so people can see your true character, and the HATEFUL character of the people who support you that are posting on the article!

        • Felix Hunziker

          Dear Jaime. You are a dolt. If you’d like to avoid the appearance of being a dolt, here are a few recommendations for you to follow up on before you open your mouth again.

          1) Visit http://www.WeSupportRichmond.com and read about Chief Magnus’ accomplishments and the testimonials from many residents that show overwhelming community support that crosses all racial, ethnic, political, and socioeconomic lines.

          2) Call or email our City Council or City Manager and ask them if they support Chief Magnus.

          3) Go learn something about how juries are selected. The prosecution is just as involved as the defense in choosing the jurors.

          4) Go learn something about crime stats and you’ll find that violent crime in Richmond has steadily decreased thanks to RPD policing strategies under Chief Magnus and many other dedicated agencies and community organizations. Crime reduction requires a broad approach plus community participation and the Chief is a big believer these methods.

          I also offer my sympathies in advance because it’s clear you will be flunking your class. Cheers!

        • Mike

          It is nice that you are 100% convinced he was guilty. The jury who sat through 3 months of trial was 100% convinced otherwise. I’ll side with the folks who actually know something rather than those who know nothing.

        • Tony SUggs

          Wow Jaime,

          I sure would not want to have to meet you “professionally speaking” if you ever get a job in the criminal justice field.

          But then, if I may use some psyhic powers of my own, you would probably be an “activist” lawyer.

          Please stay in school. That is where you can do the least damage, unless of course, you become a teacher.

          BTW, Chief, since you have mind control powers over me and got me to write this, is there anything else you would like me to say?

          I’m waiting………………

  4. Love that Nat Bates quote at the end. “It’s good news where the city is not liable”. Bottom line Bates! I’m glad the trial is over, and cops can get back to business.

  5. Don Gosney

    Since this whole affair has started we’ve been hearing about racism in the department.

    What do you think the reaction might be if some of the officers were to form THE WHITE POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION? Sounds kind of racist, doesn’t it?

    So, if this is racist, why is it that just the opposite isn’t racist? Why don’t we hear charges of racism when officers of other ethnicities form their own associations based on the color of their skin? (like the ones that are in place right now)

    Racism is racism no matter how progressive it might be intended.

  6. Isabella Wheeler

    Louis Calabro,

    I respectfully disagree. Obviously you carry some sort of personal resentment against these men. Every Richmond Confidential article I read about this case you have posted a negative comment, and they are all recently posted comments as well. If you want to be upset at anyone for getting a free ride, direct it towards the legal team of the chief. Their the only ones getting a payout millions at Richmonds expense. While they go to their nice homes and new cars on Richmond’s dime, Richmond will continue to suffer. Everyone lost here bottom line. It’s unfortunate that your personal issues are preventing you from recognizing how this case will further destroy a city. As someone posted earlier their are community members who identify with these officers. The real community, not city council members and city employees. It looks bad on the Chief that this has even gone this far. It only contributes to the mistrust of the police department, and overrall is discouraging. This would be true regardless of who won. Obviously we disagree, you have your view and I have mine, and hopefully you will refrain from ad hominems, over generalizations, and other logical fallacies when addressing someone else who shares a different perspective. I respectfully disagree with you and hopefully you can do the same.

  7. Chris Tallerico

    Blown away that the COR just spent over 6 MILLION DOLLARS defending a man, who in my opinion, is unethical and less than honorable.

    And I cant believe that I’m going to agree with Soto for once (facial tick as I type this)…But Corky needs to GO!

  8. Robert Rogers Post author

    We respect and appreciate all points of view on this public issue. Thank you all for responding. We ask that the discourse here remain respectful.

    Thank you,
    Robert Rogers

  9. Matt C.

    Chief Magnus, thank you for all you’ve done for our city. You have been an honorable and professional person over the past 6 years.
    I’m sorry for all the terrible comments people are making here. You really deserve more praise than people are giving.
    It seems to me that after three months, the jurors heard everything that could be presented to them and all the sides and facts of the case.
    We bring our own baggage and points of view when we’re commenting on this page.
    You should know that a majority of Richmond residents support you.

    • Mike

      That was a unique thing about this trial, groups that normally could not agree on the shade of blue the sky is came together in their support of the Chief Magnus and the City of Richmond.

      The trial itself was very frustrating to watch unfold but at least there is that little bright spot…

  10. Ano

    There was no racism in this case. chief magnus only wanted them to work and do their job for changing times. Chief magnum has done an out standing job getting police involved with citizens of richmond. Before chief magnum arrived. It never l happened. Good time for richmond

Comments are closed.