A Ramona man maliciously ticketed over five years by California Highway Patrol officers has been awarded $4.5 million by a Superior Court jury.
Attorneys for Steve Grassilli, 44, said he was targeted by the officers after he lodged a complaint against one of them.
After yesterday’s verdict, several jurors said they hoped the millions of dollars in punitive damages would send a message to the CHP. The CHP was not named as a defendant in the case, but the agency typically pays monetary awards when its officers are sued, said Greg Garrison, one of Grassilli’s attorneys.
“We caught them in so many lies. I hope this shakes up the CHP like you can’t believe,” said juror Saudra Swanson of El Cajon. “I was totally insulted by it all.”
Grassilli’s attorneys, Garrison and Michael Strain, said the six-week trial revealed a pattern in which CHP officers were told to lie in court to protect their fellow officers. Two officers refused to lie, and their version of events supported Grassilli’s case, his lawyers said.
Grassilli filed a complaint in March 1997 after hearing that a CHP officer had removed the catalytic converter from a pickup truck the officer owned, Garrison and Strain said.
After that, the officer, Richard Eric Barr, began ticketing Grassilli and a supplier who worked with him. Barr and Grassilli had never had any contact before Grassilli filed the complaint.
The ticketing was so frequent that Grassilli’s supplier stopped working with him, ruining Grassilli’s business installing 10,000-gallon water tanks for new homes.
Grassilli was stopped 13 times over five years for smog violations, having an obstructed view in his vehicle, or improperly hauling the water tanks, he said. The CHP is responsible for traffic enforcement in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Garrison said that instead of giving Grassilli a courtesy notice about an improperly registered vehicle, Barr’s supervisor, Michael Toth, told officers to hold off on ticketing Grassilli for six months. Then they impounded Grassilli’s truck.
Is there anything worse than corrupt cops? Maybe pedophile priests. Or Terry McAuliffe.