04/12/2006

Ex-Calif. officer acquitted in 'Riders' case sues city, former colleagues

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
All Rights Reserved

A former Oakland police officer acquitted of charges that he framed people as a member of "the Riders" has filed a $5 million federal civil rights lawsuit, saying he was slandered.

The lawsuit filed against the city by Matt Hornung, 34, is the latest chapter in a saga that began six years ago when four members of what authorities called a rogue band of officers were accused of routinely planting evidence and beating suspects in West Oakland.

Two criminal trials ended in mistrials. Jurors acquitted Hornung on several counts in the first trial, and another jury cleared him of all charges in the second.

Hornung's lawsuit claims Officers Keith Batt and Steve Hewison, who were rookies at the time, and Sgt. Jon Madarang, who worked in internal affairs, lied on the stand in hopes of convicting Hornung and Officers Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag and Jude Siapno.

"Batt, Hewison and Madarang engaged in intentionally and deliberately making false and misleading statements, destroying or hiding exculpatory evidence, intentionally creating false documentary evidence and then providing further false testimony to cover up the creation of the false documentary evidence," said the suit filed April 3 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The suit also names former Police Chief Richard Word, Madarang, Hewison and Batt as defendants. Word is now Vacaville police chief; Batt is now a Pleasanton police officer.

The suit said the defendants slandered Hornung when they called the accused officers "bad apples" and "a cancer which needed to be cut from the department."

Erica Harrold, spokeswoman for Oakland City Attorney John Russo, said Monday that she could not comment because she had not seen the suit.

Hornung's attorney, Ed Fishman of Sebastopol, said Hornung wants the prosecution's key witnesses held "accountable for their actions." The three witnesses "engaged in a series of lies and false testimony," Fishman said.

Hornung, Mabanag and Siapno were charged with abusing their power by assaulting or framing West Oakland residents in 2000. A fourth former officer, alleged ringleader Frank Vazquez, is a fugitive. All four were fired.

District Attorney Tom Orloff declined to seek a third trial, closing one of the city's longest-running scandals. The case led to a $10.5 million civil settlement and a consent decree. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson will hold the latest in a series of hearings on April 20.

On April 21, Hornung, Mabanag and Siapno will be in Alameda County Superior Court in hopes of forcing the city to hold an arbitration hearing that could lead to their reinstatement.

Hornung is working in an investigative firm, and he and his wife recently had a second child.

"He's doing the best he can," Fishman said. "He's got himself a job at this point, but his love, his quest in his life, the only thing that has worked well in his life is (policing). He wants his job back as a police officer." 
 
April 11, 2006

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