A judge Friday dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought against Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor and chief probation officer by relatives of four people fatally shot outside a Northridge boarding home in 2012, finding that both government officials are immune from liability.
The lawsuit alleged that the accused killer, Ka Pasasouk, was improperly supervised after his release from prison and should have been behind bars at the time of the deaths.
Defense attorneys maintained that for District Attorney Jackie Lacey and probation chief Jerry Powers to be liable, the plaintiffs’ lawyers would have to show the pair took part in the deaths or that they directly failed to prevent an employee of their departments from killing the victims.
They also maintained that government officials such as Lacey and Powers do not have a “constitutional duty to protect citizens from harm inflicted by other citizens.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey agreed, finding that Lacey and Powers were shielded by law from any civil liability.
“You cannot allege that these defendants were personally involved in these deaths,” Mackey said.
Prior to his ruling, Mackey denied a request by attorney Danilo Becerra, who represents some of the plaintiffs, that he remove himself on grounds that he could not be impartial.
“I have no bias,” Mackey said.
During a hearing in January, Mackey said the immunity issue was strongly in the defense’s favor, but gave Becerra a chance to file an amended complaint.
Becerra today repeatedly asked the judge for another chance to correct any problems with the case.
“I can tweak it, I can clean it up,” Becerra said.
After Mackey denied Becerra’s request, the attorney said he will bring an action alleging the judge denied due process by striking the request to remove himself as judge without holding a hearing first.
Pasasouk, a Laotian immigrant, could face a death sentence if convicted of 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 contended 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 alleged 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 he was arrested later on suspicion of drug possession.
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, conceding that it had erred in recommending that Pasasouk be placed in the drug diversion program.
Defense attorneys countered 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, now 34, 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,” the lawsuit says. “The decedents were friends and family members who had no connection to the boarding house but merely (were) picking up a friend for a birthday celebration in Las Vegas.”
—City News Service