July 2, 1997 in Nation/World

City Settles Gypsy Suit For $1.43 Million Deal Ends 11-Year Battle Over Police Raid Of Homes

Bill Morlin Kristina Johnson Contrib Staff writer
 

The city of Spokane will dip into its self-insurance fund and pay a Gypsy family $1.43 million to end the bitter civil rights fight over police searches 11 years ago.

“This settlement puts an end to one of the longest drawn-out legal battles ever faced by the city,” Mayor Jack Geraghty said Tuesday.

By settling out of court, the city will avoid additional legal costs and any possibility of a larger jury award, the mayor said..

Two suits filed in federal court by members of the Marks family had sought a total of $59 million. They later were combined into one case.

“This literally was an opportunity for the city to get out from under the risks that it faces,” said Assistant City Attorney Rocco Treppiedi.

Gypsy leader Jimmy Marks, lighting a cigar with a fake $1 million bill, said he and his family are satisfied with the payment.

“They’re calling me ‘Million Dollar Jimmy’ now,” he said.

City Attorney Jim Sloane called the settlement a “business judgment” reached with a recent federal appeals court ruling in mind.

While the court said police were justified in getting warrants to search two Marks family homes, it ruled police went too far in searching some individuals who weren’t targets of a stolen property investigation.

Sloane said the ruling also left the city potentially liable for the Markses’ legal bills, which lawyers said total $1.5 million.

The city will cover the settlement with $390,000 it got in 1995 from Spokane County when county commissioners bowed out of the case and with $900,000 from its self-insurance fund.

The payment will go to U.S. District Court, which will disburse the money. The Marks family members will pay their remaining attorneys fees from the award.

One source said 42 percent of the cash, or $600,600, will go to the attorneys and the remainder, $829,400, will go to the Marks family.

City officials said they couldn’t estimate how much taxpayers have spent over the years on the case. But they said a trial could have cost the city $150,000 to $250,000 in expenses, not counting any potential verdict against the city.

In going over the deal, the mayor emphasized the city isn’t admitting any wrongdoing or apologizing for its actions.

“The way this settlement is crafted, we don’t feel that the police officers involved, in effect, wronged the Marks family,” Geraghty said.

In secret negotiations that ended last Friday, the plaintiffs demanded an apology from the city for police conduct during the June 18, 1986 searches.

“The apology is the check, and this is what we expected,” Jimmy Marks said.

Attorney Pat Stiley said his clients also wanted the city to agree to more cultural awareness training for officers.

“We were rebuffed, but I think $1.43 million is a sufficient apology for my clients,” Stiley said.

Stiley said the settlement is significant for a civil rights case.

“We’re approaching record amounts here,” the attorney said. “There probably are not five settlements or awards approaching that amount in the United States for police misconduct.”

By comparison, a Southern California jury awarded $3.8 million to Rodney King after a videotaped beating at the hands of Los Angeles police in 1992. That award didn’t include King’s attorney fees.

Marks claimed the city “spent millions” defending the suit and crafting a countersuit that was thrown out of court.

He also said city officials encouraged federal authorities to file criminal charges accusing him and seven other family members of tampering with witnesses. There were no convictions when that case went to trial this spring.

“I feel that the taxpayers of this community should have an investigation of why this happened and why the cover-up has gone on for 11 years,” Marks said.

The out-of-court settlement cancels a U.S. District Court rights trial set for September in Yakima before Judge Alan McDonald.

It also ends years of public bickering, legal wrangling and postponements.

The deal was hammered out secretly after the federal judge ordered the parties into mediation sessions conducted by Magistrate Lonnie Suko. McDonald threatened everyone involved in the case with jail and fines if they talked about the sessions.

The negotiations were finalized Friday in McDonald’s guarded courtroom in the U.S. Post Office in downtown Spokane.

From there, the deal was kicked back to City Hall, a block away, where the council unanimously approved the settlement in a closed-door meeting Monday evening.

After the judge’s gag order was lifted Tuesday, the animosity between city officials and the Marks family was still evident.

Both sides called separate press conferences, almost simultaneously, to put their own spins on the deal.

Plainclothes police kept Jimmy Marks from attending a City Hall press conference in the mayor’s fifth floor office, attending by a quorum of council members - the mayor, Orville Barnes, Jeff Colliton and Roberta Greene - City Manager Bill Pupo, Sloane and a battery of other city officials.

Marks waited in the council office’s public reception area, holding a bag of baby pacifiers he wanted to hand out.

After the city’s press conference broke up, he gave Barnes a hug and a large copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Marks then left, throwing a stone over his shoulder.

“It signifies that I’m leaving the bad luck and the terrible times behind me,” he said before driving away in a late model Mercedes.

Spokane police raided the homes of Grover and Jimmy Marks in 1986, looking for stolen property.

Instead of searching only the four people under investigation, police detained, questioned and searched more than two dozens members of the Marks family.

A Spokane County Superior Court judge ruled the searches were illegal and dismissed felony charges against Jimmy Marks, his wife Jane, and his father and mother, Grover and Marie Marks.

The Washington State Supreme Court later ordered the charges reinstated, but said the evidence couldn’t be used at trial.

Jimmy and Marie Marks ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. All charges against Grover and Jane Marks were dismissed.

Last December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the police searches were too broad because they included people who weren’t targets of the investigation.

With the end to the case, Jimmy Marks said he won’t have a cause to occupy his time.

This July 4th weekend, he said he’s heading to Washington, D.C.

Marks said he will take a 1986 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne - corked in the same year as the police raids - to the grave of President Kennedy, who pushed passage of federal civil rights laws.

“I’m going to open up that champagne on his grave in respect to the man who gave his life for the civil rights of all people, including the Roma, the Gypsies.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

MEMO: See related story under the headline: City fund cut in half with deal

Two sidebars appeared with the story:

1. REACTION TO SETTLEMENT

Here’s what Jimmy Marks and former and current public officials involved with the case said about the settlement:

“I’m very, very relieved and thankful that it’s over. It’s probably less than I expected. My prayer right now is that we can maintain peace on this whole issue in this community from here out. It just takes a weight off everybody.”

- Sheri Barnard, former mayor

“The apology is the check, and this is what we expected.”

- Jimmy Marks

“It is good to have it finished so that we can move on, even though the empty piece is not having the vindication of our police officers whom I feel were definitely in the right. We weren’t going to go any higher.”

- City Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes

“Along with many serving and retired police officers on this department, I found the settlement of the Gypsy case to have brought on mixed emotions … I think all of us regret sorely that, after nearly a decade of maintaining professional silence, the real story on what happened and the events of that day will never come out under oath in a court of law.”

- Police Chief Terry Mangan

“I’m glad it’s settled. Let’s put it behind us. As long as it was not settled, everyone was upset over every aspect of it. This way there can be a healing between the Marks family and the city, and the county, for that matter.”

- State Court of Appeals Judge John Schultheis (former Superior Court judge)

“It’s a lot of money, and it’s really undeserved money. It bothers me that we have to pay them anything. But given the legal system today, that’s probably a good deal.”

- Joel Crosby, former city councilman

“I’m glad to see it settled. It’s in the ballpark of what I expected. I think it’s a relief to everybody to get it over with.”

- Roger Crum, former Spokane city manager

Compiled by staff writer Kristina Johnson

2. CHRONOLOGY

Key events in the 11-year-old battle between the Marks family and the city of Spokane.

June 1986: Police looking for stolen property search the homes of Grover and Marie Marks, and Jimmy and Jane Marks. Officers seize $1.6 million in cash and $500,000 in jewelry.

July 1986: A judge orders the cash returned because it wasn’t listed in the search warrants. Police tell the IRS about the cash.

October 1986: Police arrest Grover, Marie, Jimmy and Jane Marks on felony charges of trafficking in stolen property.

October 1987: The IRS returns the cash with interest after taxes are withheld.

November 1987: A Superior Court judge orders the return of most of the jewelry. The Marks family alleges some jewelry is missing. Police call the charge “totally false and ridiculous.”

September 1988: Judge John Schultheis dismisses criminal charges against the four Marks family members, ruling the police mismanaged the raids and illegally seized items.

June 1989: Marks family members file companion civil rights lawsuits against the city and county and various police officers, alleging their constitutional rights were violated during the police raids. The suits, later combined, asked for $40 million and $19 million in damages.

October 1989: The city and county respond with a counter suit, accusing the Gypsy Church of the Northwest and its leaders of racketeering and seeking damages for costs of the police investigation.

May 1990: The Washington Supreme Court reinstates criminal charges against the four Marks family members, but rules prosecutors can’t use evidence obtained in the searches.

February 1991: Felony charges are dropped against the Marks. Jimmy Marks and his mother, Marie, plead guilty to misdemeanors.

September 1991: U.S. District Judge Robert McNichols dismisses the racketeering suit.

January 1992: McNichols appoints a referee in hopes of settling the civil rights case. When that fails, a jury trial is set for April 1992.

March 1992: A San Francisco mediator is paid $7,000 for his unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a settlement.

April 1992: The city and county agree to settle the suit by admitting liability and letting a federal judge determine damages. The Gypsy families agree to drop their demand for punitive damages. But the trial is postponed when McNichols becomes gravely ill.

September 1992: McNichols returns to the bench and hears six days of testimony. When the judge’s health deteriorates, the trial is suspended.

October 1992: The Gypsy Church of the Northwest files a malicious prosecution suit against the city and county for filing the racketeering suits. The claim is later dismissed.

December 1992: Judge McNichols dies, shortly before having the civil right case reassigned to Judge Justin Quakenbush. He privately tells both sides it would be in everyone best interests to settle the case for just over $1 million.

March 1993: The case is reassigned to U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald of Yakima. He sets a March 1994 trial date.

October 1993: McDonald refuses the city and county request to dismiss the case, but rules that the police raids weren’t racially motivated.

May 1995: A bill-collection agency pays $25 at a sheriff’s auction for Grover Marks’ legal standing in the $40 million civil rights case. The agency then sells its interest in the suit to the city for $3,163, apparently nullifying Grover Marks’ standing in the case.

August 1995: The county bows out of the suit by giving the city $390,000 to assume full liability in the case. The county’s legal bills alone total $426,000.

May 1996: Federal witness intimidation charges are filed against Grover Marks and his sons, Bobby and Jimmy, and six of their sons. Two months later, prosecutors dismiss charges against an ailing Grover Marks.

April 1997: The witness tampering trial ends with the jury acquitting six of the family members of all charges. Jimmy Marks is found not guilty of witness intimidation, but the jury deadlocks on two other counts against him.

June 18: Eleven years to the day after the raids, secret court-ordered negotiations begin in Yakima.

June 27: The negotiations conclude with a $1.43 million out-of-court payment by the city.

- Bill Morlin

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Bill Morlin Staff writer

Staff writer Kristina Johnson contributed to this report.

See related story under the headline: City fund cut in half with deal

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. REACTION TO SETTLEMENT Here’s what Jimmy Marks and former and current public officials involved with the case said about the settlement: “I’m very, very relieved and thankful that it’s over. It’s probably less than I expected. My prayer right now is that we can maintain peace on this whole issue in this community from here out. It just takes a weight off everybody.” - Sheri Barnard, former mayor “The apology is the check, and this is what we expected.” - Jimmy Marks “It is good to have it finished so that we can move on, even though the empty piece is not having the vindication of our police officers whom I feel were definitely in the right. We weren’t going to go any higher.” - City Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes “Along with many serving and retired police officers on this department, I found the settlement of the Gypsy case to have brought on mixed emotions … I think all of us regret sorely that, after nearly a decade of maintaining professional silence, the real story on what happened and the events of that day will never come out under oath in a court of law.” - Police Chief Terry Mangan “I’m glad it’s settled. Let’s put it behind us. As long as it was not settled, everyone was upset over every aspect of it. This way there can be a healing between the Marks family and the city, and the county, for that matter.” - State Court of Appeals Judge John Schultheis (former Superior Court judge) “It’s a lot of money, and it’s really undeserved money. It bothers me that we have to pay them anything. But given the legal system today, that’s probably a good deal.” - Joel Crosby, former city councilman “I’m glad to see it settled. It’s in the ballpark of what I expected. I think it’s a relief to everybody to get it over with.” - Roger Crum, former Spokane city manager

Compiled by staff writer Kristina Johnson

2. CHRONOLOGY Key events in the 11-year-old battle between the Marks family and the city of Spokane. June 1986: Police looking for stolen property search the homes of Grover and Marie Marks, and Jimmy and Jane Marks. Officers seize $1.6 million in cash and $500,000 in jewelry. July 1986: A judge orders the cash returned because it wasn’t listed in the search warrants. Police tell the IRS about the cash. October 1986: Police arrest Grover, Marie, Jimmy and Jane Marks on felony charges of trafficking in stolen property. October 1987: The IRS returns the cash with interest after taxes are withheld. November 1987: A Superior Court judge orders the return of most of the jewelry. The Marks family alleges some jewelry is missing. Police call the charge “totally false and ridiculous.” September 1988: Judge John Schultheis dismisses criminal charges against the four Marks family members, ruling the police mismanaged the raids and illegally seized items. June 1989: Marks family members file companion civil rights lawsuits against the city and county and various police officers, alleging their constitutional rights were violated during the police raids. The suits, later combined, asked for $40 million and $19 million in damages. October 1989: The city and county respond with a counter suit, accusing the Gypsy Church of the Northwest and its leaders of racketeering and seeking damages for costs of the police investigation. May 1990: The Washington Supreme Court reinstates criminal charges against the four Marks family members, but rules prosecutors can’t use evidence obtained in the searches. February 1991: Felony charges are dropped against the Marks. Jimmy Marks and his mother, Marie, plead guilty to misdemeanors. September 1991: U.S. District Judge Robert McNichols dismisses the racketeering suit. January 1992: McNichols appoints a referee in hopes of settling the civil rights case. When that fails, a jury trial is set for April 1992. March 1992: A San Francisco mediator is paid $7,000 for his unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a settlement. April 1992: The city and county agree to settle the suit by admitting liability and letting a federal judge determine damages. The Gypsy families agree to drop their demand for punitive damages. But the trial is postponed when McNichols becomes gravely ill. September 1992: McNichols returns to the bench and hears six days of testimony. When the judge’s health deteriorates, the trial is suspended. October 1992: The Gypsy Church of the Northwest files a malicious prosecution suit against the city and county for filing the racketeering suits. The claim is later dismissed. December 1992: Judge McNichols dies, shortly before having the civil right case reassigned to Judge Justin Quakenbush. He privately tells both sides it would be in everyone best interests to settle the case for just over $1 million. March 1993: The case is reassigned to U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald of Yakima. He sets a March 1994 trial date. October 1993: McDonald refuses the city and county request to dismiss the case, but rules that the police raids weren’t racially motivated. May 1995: A bill-collection agency pays $25 at a sheriff’s auction for Grover Marks’ legal standing in the $40 million civil rights case. The agency then sells its interest in the suit to the city for $3,163, apparently nullifying Grover Marks’ standing in the case. August 1995: The county bows out of the suit by giving the city $390,000 to assume full liability in the case. The county’s legal bills alone total $426,000. May 1996: Federal witness intimidation charges are filed against Grover Marks and his sons, Bobby and Jimmy, and six of their sons. Two months later, prosecutors dismiss charges against an ailing Grover Marks. April 1997: The witness tampering trial ends with the jury acquitting six of the family members of all charges. Jimmy Marks is found not guilty of witness intimidation, but the jury deadlocks on two other counts against him. June 18: Eleven years to the day after the raids, secret court-ordered negotiations begin in Yakima. June 27: The negotiations conclude with a $1.43 million out-of-court payment by the city.

- Bill Morlin

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Bill Morlin Staff writer Staff writer Kristina Johnson contributed to this report.

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