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Defendants now fewer in police case

Judge throws out some discrimination allegations made by five officers.

July 15, 2010|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

GLENDALE— A federal judge has narrowed the scope of a lawsuit filed by five Glendale police officers who alleged discrimination and harassment due to their ethnic backgrounds.

After reviewing arguments and a motion by the city to dismiss the case, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Synder on Friday dismissed at least two dozen defendants from the lawsuit because the allegations against them weren't sufficiently severe, according to federal court records.

City officials hailed the ruling as indicative of the weak case against the Police Department.

"This ruling comes very early in the defense of this lawsuit," Police Chief Ron De Pompa said in a statement released Wednesday. "While the lawsuit is not over, the judge has substantially narrowed its scope and reduced the number of defendants. We will vigorously defend against the remaining allegations, which we believe are baseless."

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Synder also eliminated another retaliation claim because the officers did not file the alleged retaliatory conduct within the required time period, according to the ruling.

Six others remain in the lawsuit after she determined allegations of intentional discrimination were sufficient to proceed, according to the ruling — a fact that plaintiff attorneys seized on in pressing forward.

"The court's ruling in fact demonstrates the merit behind the clients' claim," said attorney Astineh Arakelian, who is working with lead attorney Carney Shegerian in representing the plaintiffs.

Sergeants Vahak Mardikian and Tigran Topadzhikyan, Officers John Balian and Robert Parseghian, and former Officer Benny Simonzad filed a joint lawsuit Jan. 20 in U.S. District Court alleging years of derogatory comments, discrimination and harassment.

The cases for another two Glendale police officers who filed separate lawsuits in May are pending.

Officer Tyrone Hunter, who is black, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that he endured racial slurs and was unfairly taken off a top narcotics investigative assignment.

Hunter, who joined Glendale police in 1992, also claimed in his lawsuit that despite winning professional accolades for his work, he received negative work reviews that prevented him from advancing within the department.

Officer Marc Mendoza filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that he was demoted from detective to patrol officer because of his friendship with Mardikian, one of the five plaintiffs in the discrimination case filed in January.

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