Gascón’s top aide agrees to drop lawsuit against Azusa over public intoxication arrest

California

Joseph Iniguez, the top aide to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, agreed this week to drop his federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Azusa stemming from his 2021 arrest for public intoxication in exchange for a monetary settlement.

Terms of the pending settlement were not disclosed in a notice filed Tuesday, July 11, in U.S. District Court. Iniguez, who is Gascon’s chief of staff, has agreed to dismiss Azusa and police Cpl. R. Martinez as defendants after the settlement is paid, according to the notice.

Iniguez confirmed the settlement agreement Thursday.

“Constitutional policing must be commended, bad policing is a scourge on our community and must be called out,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “While I took this action to hold them accountable, many people with less knowledge of the system have bad experiences with police that impact their trust for some of our most important public servants.

“To support good cops and modern policing strategies, I will be donating the entire settlement amount to the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.”

Iniguez, 37, questioned police and advised his husband not to cooperate with an officer who pulled over his black Tesla just after 11:30 p.m. Dec. 11 in the 900 block East Alosta Avenue, according to an eight-page police report obtained by the Southern California News Group.

Iniguez, who was a passenger in the car, “exited the vehicle and began telling (the driver) that he did not have to answer any questions nor did he have to conduct any field sobriety tests,” says the report submitted by Azusa police Cpl. R. Martinez. “I could see that his (Iniguez) eyes were bloodshot and watery, he had slurred speech, a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath and person, he admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages and he was not listening to commands from officers.

“He also was pointing out the fact that we (officers) did not have body cameras and told (the driver) not to believe everything the police were saying.”

Police eventually put Iniguez in handcuffs, placed him in a patrol car, and drove him to the Azusa jail, where he was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor public intoxication. However, there are no records on file with Los Angeles County Superior Court showing that Iniguez was charged in connection with the arrest.

About three hours later when he was released from jail, Iniguez told Martinez he would see him again and called him “Brady,” the report says. Law enforcement officers who have a record of knowingly lying in an official capacity are placed on a so-called Brady list under a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland. Prosecutors then must notify defendants and their attorneys whenever an officer on that list is involved in their case.

Iniguez filed a lawsuit in January 2021 in U.S. District Court against the city of Azusa and Martinez, alleging his civil rights were violated during his unjust arrest. He sought unspecified damages.

“The extent and falsity of this reporting caused plaintiff extraordinary shame and embarrassment, emotional and psychological distress and the physical manifestations of such distress and embarrassment,” the lawsuit states. Iniguez, it claims, now suffers from “sleeplessness and debilitating anxiety.”

Iniguez was aware Azusa police do not use body-worn cameras or dashboard recording devices in patrol vehicles, according to the lawsuit. As a result, he got out of the Tesla and began to record the interaction with Martinez with his cellphone to ensure it was documented.

Iniguez has refused to release the video.

“On the video you can hear my voice but the footage is exclusively of the officers and of my husband,” he said. “I don’t feel comfortable publicly releasing footage of him being harassed and unfairly arrested by police. This was a scary and traumatic experience for him and he understandably wants to move past it.”

The lawsuit alleges Martinez never warned Iniguez to get back in the Tesla before he was arrested and appeared frustrated that Iniguez informed the driver of his constitutional rights, the complaint alleges. Azusa officials have denied that allegation.

Iniguez, a former defense attorney who joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 2015, had planned to challenge former District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2020, but later threw his political support behind Gascón. He was named chief of staff in 2021.

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