Veth Mam Sues Fullerton For Violating His Civil Rights (Warning: Violent Video)
LOS ANGELES By GREG RISLING (Associated Press) -- The legal problems facing an embattled Orange County police agency mounted Friday after an attorney filed a lawsuit claiming officers wrongly arrested his client and falsely accused him of attacking an officer in October.
Lawyer Garo Mardirossian said at a news conference that several Fullerton police officers wrote false reports about the arrest of Veth Mam, 35, who was later charged with assault, battery and resisting arrest. Mam was acquitted by a jury last month after video he shot of the incident convinced a jury he hadn't committed those crimes.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of the death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man who had a bloody confrontation with six officers last month, parts of which also were captured on videotape. His death has sparked outrage in Fullerton, and Mardirossian filed a claim last week against the city on behalf of Thomas' father, alleging civil rights violations, conspiracy and negligence.
In Mam's case, he was videotaping the arrest of his friend when Officer Kenton Hampton knocked the camera out of his hand and threw him to the ground, Mardirossian said. Police claim Mam jumped on the back of another officer and tried to choke him. The department has since acknowledged they may have made a mistake in arresting Mam.
Mam said it was his first visit to Fullerton and the encounter has made him so afraid he won't leave his house.
"Now I don't feel safe anymore," Mam said. "I'm pretty traumatized by this."
His lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims conspiracy to violate civil rights, including excessive force, false arrest and conspiracy.
"We have an active internal investigation into the Veth Mam matter as relates to the allegations of perjury. It appears we did arrest the wrong man in the Veth Mam case and we've admitted that," police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said. "We're not prepared to respond to any specific allegations in the lawsuit."
Mardirossian said he's been told by someone who saw the Thomas encounter that Hampton was one of the six officers involved. Police have refused to release the officers' names, citing an ongoing investigation. Those officers have been placed on paid administrative leave and the incident is being investigated by the FBI and the Orange County district attorney's office.
Goodrich, the police spokesman, declined to comment on whether Hampton was involved in either case.
Hampton could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutor Rebecca Reed, who handled Mam's case, said after she reviewed the videotape she didn't believe it was Mam who scuffled with an officer, but she decided to proceed to trial because the video didn't capture the entire event.
Reed said she relied on the officers' account of what transpired and was confident she did her due diligence. She pointed out the judge denied a defense motion to dismiss charges against Mam during the 3 1/2-day trial. A co-defendant was convicted of assault, battery and resisting arrest.
Her office is not named in Mam's lawsuit.
Huffington Post -- Below, the original video depicting Mam's arrest:
KTLA's exclusive interview with Mam and Mardirossian: