Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons
Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons

A judge Friday gave lawyers 20 days to amend a civil rights lawsuit brought against Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers by relatives of four people fatally shot outside a Northridge boarding home in 2012.

The lawsuit alleges that the suspected killer, Ka Pasasouk, was improperly supervised after his release from prison and should have been behind bars at the time of the deaths.

But attorneys hired by the county maintain Lacey and Powers have immunity from liability. In a lengthy ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey said the immunity issue looms large over the case.

“You’re running into problems, gentlemen,” Mackey told the plaintiffs’ lawyers while giving them 20 days to file an amended complaint.

Pasasouk, a Laotian immigrant, is facing a possible death sentence for the Dec. 2, 2012, killings of Amanda Ghossein, 24, of Monterey Park; Jennifer Kim, 26, of Montebello; Robert Calabia, 34, of Los Angeles; and Teofilo Navales, 49, of Castaic.

In their lawsuit, relatives of all four victims contend that the county Probation Department failed to closely monitor Pasasouk after he got out of prison in January 2012. He was being overseen by the county instead of state parole officials under the terms of the state’s prison-realignment program as outlined in Assembly Bill 109.

“The county failed to classify and identify him as a highly dangerous felon and subject him to ‘strict’ supervision,” according to the lawsuit. “Los Angeles County Probation failed to follow these mandatory provisions and increased the risk of injury and (danger) to decedents by their failure to implement the mandatory provisions.”

The lawsuit contends that after Pasasouk failed to meet with a probation officer twice in early 2012, no efforts were made by the Probation Department to locate him until September, when he was arrested on suspicion of drug possession.

“They didn’t do anything,” attorney Danilo Becerra, on behalf of the Kim and Calabia relatives, said after today’s hearing. “It’s a tragic case.”

After the drug arrest, the District Attorney’s Office recommended that Pasasouk be allowed to enter a drug diversion program instead of being placed back behind bars — despite a lengthy history of convictions and a recommendation to the contrary by the Probation Department, according to Becerra.

The District Attorney’s Office issued a statement after the killings, admitting that it had erred in recommending that Pasasouk be placed in the drug diversion program.

But defense attorneys state in their court papers that even if it is conceded that the prosecutor who recommended drug diversion did not have proper training, the conduct at worst amounts to negligence and cannot be construed as a deliberate effort to “implement a program that violates the civil rights of its constituents.”

Pasasouk was released from custody in late October or early November 2012, according to the lawsuit.

“Approximately one month later, when decedents in the early morning hours went by to pick up a friend at the boarding house, the drug-crazed Pasasouk accosted them with a handgun, forced them to their knees and began executing them for a wrongfully held belief that they had stolen his property,” according to the lawsuit. “The decedents were friends and family members who had no connection to the boarding house but merely picking up a friend for a birthday celebration in Las Vegas.”

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 21, 20014, asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

—City News Service

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