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Case against Glendale appealed

Plaintiff wants lower-court ruling in Glendale's favor reversed.

May 31, 2013|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

An attorney who claims his rights were violated when a Glendale police officer had an affair with his wife after he was arrested on, and ultimately acquitted of, criminal charges is asking an appellate court to reverse a lower court's decision to throw out his case.

Attorneys for Robert Yousefian filed an opening brief Thursday in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals contending that the U.S. District Court erred when it determined he had failed to raise "triable issues" on whether his constitutional rights were violated by the city.

"We are hoping the 9th Circuit Court will see it our way," his attorney, Mark Geragos, said.

The case stems from an incident in August 2007 in which Yousefian's father-in-law allegedly assaulted him with a cane in his home, according to the court brief. Yousefian reportedly defended himself by striking his father-in-law with a candleholder.

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Then-Glendale Police Officer Michael Lizarraga arrested Yousefian, citing probable cause for assault. It was during the arrest that Yousefian's estranged wife exchanged numbers with Lizarraga, according to the court brief.

The events that day and those that followed "would effectively deprive him of his liberty for the next 35 months," Yousefian's legal team argued in the court filing.

That same night, Yousefian's wife reportedly went to Lizarraga's home and handed over drugs that she claimed to have found in her husband's car. Even though Lizarraga had already searched Yousefian's car and didn't find any drugs, he took the materials as evidence and pursued drug charges against him, according to the court brief.

The wife and Lizarraga were allegedly involved in a romantic relationship for several years despite the ongoing police investigation and prosecution of Yousefian.

The brief claims Det. Petros Kmbikyan maliciously pursued drug charges against Yousefian by omitting facts in police reports, not disclosing critical information and by intimidating witnesses.

A jury ultimately acquitted Yousefian of the charges, and Lizarraga was later fired from the Police Department because "improper conduct colored the objectivity of the arrest, investigation, and subsequent court proceedings," according to the appeal.

Glendale attorneys plan to file their own court brief, but in an email, City Atty. Mike Garcia disagreed with Yousefian's claims, saying the city "believes that the district court properly granted summary judgment in the case."

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Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.

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