The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES- A federal jury awarded $18 million to a teacher who said a detective falsely accused him of kidnapping and assaulting a teenage girl and then hid evidence that would have cleared him.The jury's decision on Wednesday came at a time when officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have been complaining of a lack of funds, and plaintiff Raul Ramirez could be awarded even more money when the trial enters its punitive phase Thursday.
Ramirez, 29, who taught middle school in Compton, was arrested in 2003 after a 16-year-old student identified him as the man who kidnapped her at gunpoint a year earlier as she waited for a bus. She said he drove her somewhere else and demanded that she perform a sex act, but she escaped.
A jury found Ramirez not guilty after he produced ATM receipts and cell phone records showing he was miles from the scene when the crime occurred. A judge later made the rare finding that he was "factually innocent."
Ramirez then sued the Sheriff's Department, alleging that Detective Frank Bravo built a false case against him.
According to Ramirez's federal complaint, Bravo knew Ramirez did not match the victim's description of her assailant but withheld that information until just before trial.
Ramirez's attorney also alleged Bravo failed to disclose the existence of the girl's backpack, which did not bear Ramirez's fingerprints.
Bravo "arrested Mr. Ramirez and basically shattered his life based on the unreliable eyewitness identification of a teenage girl who was mistaken," said Ramirez's attorney, Michael Artan.
Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo said the county was disappointed by the verdict. Sheriff's officials believed they were not liable because prosecutors thought the case against Ramirez had merit, he said.