Gypsies, City Apparently Settle Lawsuit Judge’s Gag Order Squelches Settlement Details
The city of Spokane and a large Gypsy family appear to have settled a civil rights lawsuit tied to illegal police raids 11 years ago.
Details of the out-of-court settlement are expected to be made public this week, possibly as early as today.
No one is saying how much the city will pay members of the Marks family, but it is expected to be millions of dollars.
It may involve an initial payment by the city, followed by annuity payments structured over several years.
As part of the settlement, the city also is expected to pay the family’s legal bills, which exceed $1 million.
The parties are prevented from discussing negotiations or the proposed settlement under a gag order issued by U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald.
Anyone violating the order could be found in criminal contempt and either sent to jail or fined up to $50,000.
City Attorney Jim Sloane and Assistant City Attorney Rocco Treppiedi either weren’t available for comment or wouldn’t return telephone calls Monday.
Even Gypsy leader Jimmy Marks wasn’t talking with reporters, which has become his favorite pastime in the past decade. His wife said he was out of town on vacation.
One source familiar with the settlement talks said “good news is coming soon,” meaning an end to the contentious case.
McDonald set a trial date in September after the city lost on most issues it took to a federal appeals court while successfully delaying the trial.
The judge also ordered the parties to attend a closed court meeting in Yakima on May 13. At that session, McDonald appointed U.S. Magistrate Lonnie Suko to be a mediator in hopes of resolving the case.
Suko held mediation sessions June 18-20 in Yakima, which were attended by Sloane, Treppiedi and City Council members Orville Barnes and Mike Brewer.
Another secret negotiating session occurred last Friday in Spokane in McDonald’s guarded courtroom in the U.S. Post Office.
The City Council, which must vote on the proposed settlement, has been informed of the status of the negotiations in closed sessions.
The lawsuit stems from police raids on June 18, 1986, at the homes of Grover and Marie Marks, and Jimmy and Jane Marks.
More than two dozen members of the Marks family, including several who weren’t targets of a police stolen property investigation, were searched or detained during those raids. They turned up $1.6 million in cash and $500,000 in jewelry, only some of which police alleged was stolen.
Police seized the money, even though search warrants gave them no authorization to do it. After the cash was ordered returned by a judge, the families claimed much of it, including silver certificates and silver dollars, either disappeared or was replaced with modern currency.
The families also allege some of the seized jewelry disappeared.
The Washington Supreme Court later ruled the raids were illegal and involved outrageous police conduct.
In March 1989, the families of the late Grover Marks and his sons and daughters filed companion suits, one seeking $40 million and the other asking for $19 million.