A federal judge this month blocked a U.S. Marine's excessive force case against a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer from reaching a June jury trial after granting a request for summary judgment by the state Attorney General's office.
Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Anthony Capra claimed he had been riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle on the westbound 91 freeway in September 2012 when a tractor trailer unsafely merged into his lane and caused him to make "an emergency maneuver to avoid getting struck."
CHP officer Daniel Blanco didn't see an emergency maneuver but rather unsafe driving and claims he saw Capra, who was stationed full-time at Camp Pendleton, flip him the bird.
After a high-speed chase, a "raging" Blanco told the Marine he wanted to "kick [his] ass," falsely accused him of being intoxicated, arrested him on a "frivolous" reckless driving charge and caused injuries by "very tightly" placing two sets of handcuffs on the motorcyclist's hands, according to the lawsuit.
While transporting Capra to the Orange County Jail, the officer allegedly softened his attitude and suggested ways the Marine could win a reduced charge based on his good military service record, statements Capra's attorney saw as "a strong indication of consciousness of his wrongful conduct."
But state prosecutors representing the CHP officer argued Blanco is entitled to immunity as a cop, his motive for pursuing Capra for the obscene gesture is irrelevant, his handcuffing technique was proper and a recording of the cop with a dispatcher largely confirmed his version of events during the eight-mile chase.
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The AG's office also noted that Capra admitted guilt in the reckless driving case filed by the Orange County District Attorney's office based on Blanco's report.
U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and a 2013 appointee to the bench by President Barack Obama, sided with the CHP officer, closed the file and ordered the Marine to pay the government its costs to defend the case.