RPD discrimination lawsuit prepares for Federal Court
on September 7, 2012
Five months after a jury cleared Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus of racial discrimination allegations, the case is now set to reappear in federal court in November.
The plaintiffs — seven prominent African-American police officers — originally filed a suit in 2007 that alleged that Magnus discriminated by race when choosing officers for promotion. In April a jury cleared the chief, deputy chief and city of any wrongdoing.
But immediately after the verdict, plaintiff’s attorney Stephan Jaffe said that his clients would bring their case to federal court. The federal case will focus on claims after 2007, while the state case focused on claims pre-2007.
Only three of the original seven plaintiffs – Lieutenants Shawn Picket, Arnold Threets and Cleveland Brown — will pursue the case in federal court, though. Brown decided to continue with the lawsuit even though he has already retired. The other four plaintiffs – Captain Eugene McBride, Sergeant James Jenkins and Lieutenants Michael Booker and Johan Simon — have either retired or settled out of court.
Richmond City Attorney Geoffrey Spellberg said the first jury came back with the verdict quickly, and he didn’t expect a different result the second time around.
“I don’t think the plaintiffs have improved their positions,” Spellberg said.
Magnus has continued to work through the trials. But, he said the case’s route to federal court is still on his mind.
“This has been the most frustrating thing to happen in my life,” Magnus said.
The suit was filed in 2007, after the chief had been on the job for one year.
“It’s been hard on me and hard on my family,” Magnus said.
Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight told Richmond Confidential in April that the city had spent about $4.5 million defending itself in the case. Of that, about $2 million was covered by insurance, and the remaining amount was taken from Richmond’s Human Resource Risk Management division.
Spellberg said he thought the total would increase by another $200,000 by the conclusion of the federal court case.
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