An ex-cop/private investigator's guilty pleas to multiple felony crimes against Costa Mesa's mayor and a city councilman will help their lawsuit against the city police union for alleged harassment, intimidation and other illegal acts, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer.
The guilty pleas Wednesday by Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13, "reaffirm the principle that police union thuggery, harassment and intimidation against public officials will not be tolerated," says John Manly, a partner in the Irvine law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi. "We look forward to taking this case to trial and receiving just compensation for our clients and their families.”
Councilman Jim Righeimer, who was serving as mayor when he was targeted by the cop union, Mayor Steve Mensinger, who was a councilman at the time, and their families are suing Lanzillo, the police union and its former law firm that employed the P.I. for an alleged "vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation tied to labor negotiations between the City of Costa Mesa and the police union in 2012."
The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in a scheme to falsely accuse then-Mayor Righeimer of driving under the influence and unsuccessfully attempted to lure married Councilman Mensinger into a compromising position with a female decoy in a bar.
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Besides copping to false imprisonment and conspiracy to file a false police report—crimes that could send Lanzillo to state prison for more than four years and cost him his private investigator's license for life—the Lake Arrowhead resident signed a statement saying he violated Righeimer's liberties by fraud and deceit and illegally placed tracking devices on the vehicles of Mensinger and a rival lawyer.
In the lawsuit, hearings on motions involving evidence must he held before the matter goes to trial in Orange County Superior Court.
“Mayor Righeimer and Councilman Mensinger are not suing the police department, the City of Costa Mesa or any individual police officers," notes Manly's partner Vince Finaldi. "They are suing a rogue union that used illegal tactics to bully them in contract negotiations. It is now evident that these tactics included criminal activity."
A Costa Mesa Police Association spokesperson could not be reached for comment at press time, but members were told in May, "CMPA had nothing to do with either of those allegations and we would expect to win easily at trial."