LOS ANGELES – A California county on Tuesday approved paying a $650,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit by a man whose beating by deputies after a horse chase was captured on video and led to a federal civil rights investigation.
San Bernardino County supervisors approved the settlement with Francis Pusok, 30, in a closed meeting, said David Wert, a county spokesman.
Attorneys Sharon Brunner and Jim Terrell, who represent Pusok, said in a statement that county officials initiated the settlement negotiations. The lawyers noted that it was "remarkable as there was essentially no investigation nor any indictments," and it was based on video.
Pusok's arrest was recorded by a TV news crew in a helicopter and led to the FBI probe and 10 deputies being placed on leave pending an ongoing internal investigation.
Pusok fled by car and then on the horse in the desert on April 9 while deputies chased him on foot after trying to serve a search warrant in an identity-theft investigation.
The video shows Pusok, dressed in bright red clothing, falling from the horse as a deputy ran up and fired a Taser that officials said was ineffective.
Pusok is seen face down with his legs outstretched and hands behind his back as a deputy threw punches and kicks. One deputy kicked him in the crotch. Other deputies arrived moments later.
The agreement would settle all potential civil claims, but it does not affect internal, criminal or civil rights investigations, Wert said.
Pusok's attorneys say he didn't settle for the money. They say he would have probably made more through litigation, but he wanted to end police harassment and abuse.
"The Pusok family is happy to put this awful chapter of their lives behind them and begin the emotional and physical healing that must take place," the attorneys' statement said.
Supervisor Curt Hagman said the settlement resolves what could have been an expensive situation for the county.
"With this situation behind us, we can move forward with protecting our residents and ensuring that local enforcement is responsive, effective and restrained," he said in a statement.
The names of the deputies involved in the arrest have not been released because the department continues to receive threatening phone calls and emails from the public, said Jodi Miller, a sheriff's department spokeswoman.
Attorney Matt McNicholas, who has represented victims of force in civil rights cases and police officers in employment cases, said the agreement was an "excellent result for all sides" and a fiscally and morally responsible action by the county. McNicholas was not involved in Pusok's case.
"It ended up, I believe, saving the taxpayers money and probably putting more money in the plaintiff's pocket," McNicholas said.
The department is investigating whether any criminal charges should be filed against Pusok or the deputies involved in his arrest and is conducting a separate internal probe into the deputies' actions, Miller said.
Pusok has a number of vehicle code violations and pleaded no contest to several criminal charges, including resisting arrest, attempted robbery, animal cruelty and fighting or offensive words, according to San Bernardino County Superior Court records.