Local Tucson news sources have announced a settlement in Vanessa Guerena’s lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and other allied agencies that fielded the SWAT team that fired 72 rounds into Guerena’s home, and 22 rounds into Jose Guerena–and the surrounding neighborhood–two years ago. Kgun9.com has the story:
The Pima County Attorney’s office cleared the SWAT team of any criminal wrongdoing. But Thursday, vindication of sorts in the two-year civil battle with area law enforcement agencies over what happened that day.
‘The amount reached is a clear indication that the defendants in this case take responsibility, assume liability for their bad acts that day,’ said Guerena family attorney Christopher Scileppi.
The exact figure isn’t public yet, but Scileppi says the money will help a family move forward.
‘She can truly begin the healing process,’ said Scileppi.
More importantly, Scileppi believes the settlement will show the public Guerena isn’t the criminal law enforcement made him out to be.
‘He isn’t going to be looked at as a drug trafficker, but as a decorated marine who came back and became a great family man,’ said Scileppi.
This deal isn’t official until the court and the Pima County Board of Supervisors approve it. That is expected to happen at their September 17th meeting. 9OYS reached out to the sheriff’s department today for comment on the deal, but neither their attorney or anyone with the department wanted to speak with us. They say they will wait until the deal is approved in a few weeks.
And there are reasons why the Sheriff’s Department isn’t talking: the deal may be stalled. A credible source suggests that a common desire in such suits may be a stumbling block to a final agreement. That stumbling block is best represented by Vanessa:
The only thing he [Guerena’s son] asks me is, ‘is my dad bad, police killed my dad, what did my dad did’ said Guerena’s wife Vanessa in a May 2011 interview with 9OYS.
Regular readers will recall that not only was the affidavit for a search warrant for Guerena’s home grossly incompetent and deceptive, the police found no evidence of any crime in Guerena’s home, other than the crimes they committed there. The Guernea case archive is available here.
From the beginning, Vanessa has wanted to clear Jose’s name, but to do that, the settlement would have to allow the public access to information that has been concealed by the police and actually sealed by Judge Charles V. Harrington. Of course, the Pima County SD absolutely does not want that kind of information to be made public, and therein is the point of contention.
Much will depend upon Vanessa’s determination. In these cases, settlement is often dependent on both parties being willing to agree that the terms of the settlement be concealed, and that there be no public determination of fault. Of course, this usually requires the sealing of the record and all related evidence. Mr. Scileppi has suggested that the amount of the settlement is so large–far more than a token amount to make the case go away–that it amounts to an admission of fault. Everything I know about this case would suggest that this is so because the police will inevitably lose far more, and not only in public monies, should a jury decide the case. A trial, where all of the evidence of official malfeasance and incompetence would come to light, is also very much something Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and his allies would like to suppress.
Regardless of the outcome, I will continue to report on this case. There is a very great deal the public needs to know, if for no reason other than that the police involved in this case would prefer to suppress it.