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Redding city attorney speaks about Motley lawsuit

Published On: Mar 27 2014 09:02:28 PM CDT
REDDING, Calif. -

It is extensive, with more than a half-dozen claims for damages.

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the city of Redding by the family of a man who died days after a struggle with police.

It was filed Tuesday with the United States District Court. The incident happened in October.

The investigation has concluded and statements have been taken.

"Law enforcement activity is one of the highest risk things that we do. So there's always going to be cases filed against the city as a result of law enforcement activity," said Redding City Attorney Rick Duvernay.

Now, city officials are hoping to keep it out of the courtroom.

"It is costly. Not only do you have to pay for expert lawyers to be able to handle these cases in court, you also have to hire those experts,” Duvernay said. “This is how we try to arrive at the truth. This is our justice system, and there's a cost associated with it.”

Duvernay said in his ten years representing Redding they have never had a case go before a jury determining someone's constitutional rights were violated or that police used excessive force.

“If you don't have the lawsuit, then all you do is have perceptions and allegations and things like what you see in this complaint,” he said. “It's to set forth the allegations, from their perspective. They're going to put in all the allegations that they can think of. Some of them are fairly incredulous."

Steven Motley, 33, was involved in a chase, during which he allegedly stole a patrol car and ran from officers Oct. 5, 2013.

The chase ended in the back yard of a home on Alta Sega Drive. During his arrest officers called for medical aid and paramedics could be seen doing CPR on Motley.

He died three days later.

Duvernay described the litigation process Thursday.

"You've got the facts, and then what happens is the parties involved will retain experts. The experts will then interpret the facts,” he said.

An autopsy determined Motley had methamphetamine in his system and died from a drug-induced heart attack during the struggle with police.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Motley's daughter and his mother Carol Adams. It claims officers were to blame due to excessive force, including strikes, kicks and blunt force trauma to his head, face and body, as well as use of a stun gun.

"You're going to have a use of force expert. You're going to have medical experts that are going to interpret medical evidence. And what's a little unusual in this case, that differentiates it from a lot of other cases - where we get over law enforcement arrests and stuff - there probably is going to be some kind of expert that's going to have to be able to testify about how someone reacts when they've got toxic levels of methamphetamine in their system, and what that means,” Duvernay said.

Ultimately city officials want the issue resolved.

"I'm not going to criticize them for bringing the lawsuit. I think it's their right to be able to do that,” Duvernay said. “The court system is there to arrive at the truth. We'll see what happens with it."

Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti said he was unable to comment on the active case.

Duvernay said although they are aware of it their office has not been served the paperwork. The court has 120-days to do so.