County Confers $650 K On Pusok To Head Off Lawsuit

SAN BERNARDINO—(April 22) In a settlement unique in San Bernardino County history, the county has conferred a $650,000 cash payout on an Apple Valley man whose beating at the hands of sheriff’s deputies on April 9 was captured on a news helicopter video.
The county announced that Francis Jared Pusok will receive the lump sum cash award, even though he had yet to file a lawsuit or a claim over the incident. Instead, Pusok’s attorney, Jim Terrell, had negotiated the settlement with the in-house lawyers for the county, known as county counsel, having arrived at the terms of the settlement on Friday April 17, one week and a day after at least nine sheriff’s deputies participated in a melee in which Pusok was punched, kicked and bludgeoned with guns or tasers as he attempted to surrender following a three-hour chase.
Pusok, who had felony and misdemeanor convictions on resisting arrest, animal cruelty and attempted robbery charges, was at another Apple Valley residence on April 9 when deputies attempting to serve a search warrant at that home in connection with an identity theft investigation encountered him. Pusok, who claims he has been roughed up by deputies in the past, fled. A 3-hour pursuit ensued, initially in vehicles through both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of  Apple Valley and the unincorporated area of Hesperia and then across Bowens Ranch into the Deep Creek Hot Springs area. Pusok abandoned his vehicle, feeing on foot until he stole a horse.
More sheriff’s department personnel were inserted into the area by helicopter as the pursuit continued over rough and steep terrain. With a sheriff’s department, a Highway Patrol and an NBC helicopter hovering overhead and several deputies on foot on his trail, Pusok fell from the horse when the sheriff’s department helicopter made a pass directly over him as deputies were closing in.
Pusok was shot with a taser and immediately surrendered, spreading out on the ground face down, at first with his arms out and then behind his back in compliance with the deputies’ commands. Despite his submissive posture, deputies administered to him a sustained round of summary punishment, kicking and punching him in the head and neck area, shoulders, torso, legs and groin, disregarding the news helicopter overhead, which the deputies apparently mistook for a second sheriff’s department airship. The cameraman aboard that aircraft, known as Newschopper 4, caught the entire pummeling on video.
County counsel brought the finalized settlement to the board of supervisors, which held a regularly scheduled meeting on April 21. The board, with supervisor Janice Rutherford absent, after discussing the settlement in closed session, approved it
“The sole purpose of this agreement for both parties is to avoid the costs involved in litigation,” said board of supervisors chairman James Ramos. “This agreement is a fair outcome for everyone involved, including the taxpayers.”
According to the terms of the agreement, the county “acknowledges no wrongdoing” and the payment to Pusok closes out any and all potential claims he might lodge against the county relating to the incident.
Sheriff John McMahon released a statement Tuesday saying he supports the action of the board of supervisors in negotiating the settlement with Pusok.
Terrell told the Sentinel, “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. This was never about money. Mr. Pusok and the county of San Bernardino agreed to the settlement early on instead of engaging in litigation which most likely would have netted Mr. Pusok a substantially larger amount of money. This case stands for the valuable rights that all Americans have, as provided by our U.S. Constitution. This settlement is remarkable as there was essentially no investigation nor any indictments. Rather, it is based on a video which depicts a violent and brutal attack by San Bernardino County deputies on a private citizen. As such, it was the county and not Mr. Pusok’s attorneys who initiated  the settlement  negotiations.”
In response to the assertion that the early sttlement of the case would deprive the public of a vehicle, i.e., a lawsuit and trial, through which access to the belt recorder audio recordings and other data and materials that would more fully reveal a pattern of brutality on the part of sheriff’s deputies, Terrell said, “Hopefully, an investigation by the FBI will reveal that my client, like so many others citizens in San Bernardino County, had his  civil rights violated by SBSD using excessive force. The public will get what the public demands. It is hoped the national attention this case gained will be a catalyst to bring about the necessary reform and change within our county and throughout the United States. Change is obviously needed.”

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