$6M awarded in Oakland false arrest case

A man who claimed he was falsely accused by two Oakland police officers of possessing a rifle and spent more than four months in jail as a result won a $6 million award from a federal jury in San Francisco today.

The civil rights verdict in favor of Torry Smith, 25, was assessed against the city of Oakland by a unanimous eight-person jury in the court of U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen after a week-long trial.

Smith was arrested at his home in Oakland on Sept. 10, 2004, by Officers John Parkinson and Marcus Midyette, who said they saw him trying to hide an assault rifle under stairs at the back of his house.

At the time, Smith was on parole from the California Youth Authority for a juvenile offense. The officers had come to his house after they found his bank card in the car of the girlfriend of a paroled drug dealer whom they were investigating.

Smith denied any connection to the rifle or the drug dealer and said he had reported the loss or theft of his bank card a month earlier.

He was charged with being an ex-felon in possession of a gun.

His lawyer, John Burris, said Smith was then kept in jail for four and one-half months while he awaited two preliminary hearings, both of which resulted in dismissal of charges, and a hearing on a parole violation charge, which also ended in dismissal of the charge.

Smith was released in late January 2005. His lawyers said he is now working as a custodian and declined to say where he lives now.

Smith's lawsuit included claims of false arrest, assault, emotional distress and violation of his constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

Alex Katz, a spokesman for Oakland city attorney John Russo, said the award included $5 million to Smith for emotional distress; $8,000 for lost wages although he was not employed at the time, $750,000 to Smith's then-girlfriend for emotional distress; and a punitive damage award of $100,000 assessed against each officer.

Russo said the city will appeal.

The city attorney said, “We're baffled that the jury could make this decision, given the facts of the case. To reach this decision, the jury had to believe that two highly respected officers, in uniform, in a community where they are well known, in broad daylight, carried a two and one-half foot assault rifle from their car and planted it in the backyard of a man they had never even heard of before that day.”

Police Chief Wayne Tucker said: “These are hard-working officers who are well respected in the community and do not deserve this verdict.”

— Bay City News

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Pier 39 aquarium staff furloughed during coronavirus — but what about the fish?

Aquarium of the Bay raising funds from public to keep up operations during shutdown

Ride-hail drivers left idling by coronavirus shutdown

Bay Area ride-hail drivers are among those who have been hit hardest… Continue reading

Navigation shelter resident tests positive for coronavirus

Homeless advocates repeatedly warned about an outbreak in congregate settings

CCSF taps first Asian American woman to lead as interim chancellor

City College reached a settlement with former Chancellor Mark Rocha after an abrupt departure

Plummeting Bay Area bridge traffic finally levels off

All told, weekday Bay Area traffic volumes are down by half, which has remained consistent from March 23 through this week.

Most Read