Daily Californian: Lawsuit over damages from Milo Yiannopoulos event moves forward

Megha Krishnan

Originally posted at The Daily Californian.

March 17, 2019

Updated 3/18/18: This article has been updated to reflect additional information  from city spokesperson Roqua Montez.

Two years after the violent protests on campus surrounding conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit, a lawsuit that was originally filed in January 2018 against campus officials, UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department is moving forward.

U.S. Northern California District Judge Claudia Wilken denied UC Berkeley’s motion to dismiss the charges against two UCPD officers: Lt. Marc DeCoulode and Lt. Joey Williams. According to the order regarding the campus’s motion to dismiss, the reasoning behind the court’s decision was that the plaintiffs — John Jennings, Katrina Redelsheimer, Trever Hatch and Donald Fletcher — had sufficiently pleaded that actions taken by these officers violated their due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The plaintiffs’ case against the rest of the defendants, however, has been dismissed without appeal.

“We believe UCPD acted appropriately to respond to the events that occurred,” campus spokesperson Roqua Montez said in an email.  “After the initial motions frame the scope of the case, UC defends the remainder of the case on the merits. That is the next step.”

In the revised complaint submitted by the plaintiffs, they alleged that Lt. DeCoulode and Lt. Williams’ decision to lock the doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union caused further harm to the plaintiffs, as they could not seek refuge in the building.

The plaintiffs refer to arguments based “on information and belief” that DeCoulode and Williams’ reactions were deliberately indifferent about the safety of the plaintiffs.

“They knew or should have known that they were violating a constitutional right when they deprived our clients due process … to be free of harm,” said the plaintiffs’ lead attorney on constitutional claims William Becker. “That created a mental state to where they aren’t immune from liability. They knew a constitutional right was violated.”

According to the plaintiffs’ lead attorney on tort claims Shawn Steel, the case took two years to get to the discovery stage because many defendants were named, so there were many lawyers on the defendants’ side — which led to delays in the legal process. Becker said the complaint itself was lengthy, and the courts took months to come up with a decision regarding the previous motions to dismiss filed by the defendants.

According to Becker and Steel, the plaintiffs want the defendants to pay for their medical bills and compensation for damages, and they want to ensure that there is a policy shift regarding conservative political events on campus.

“I think the overarching policy goal that we’re seeking is that UCB will establish a policy whereby conservatives who visit campus will no longer have to be threatened by violence … simply because of their conservative views,” Becker said.

The plaintiffs are currently moving forward with their discovery plan, according to Becker, who also said there was no offer of settlement given by the defendants.

Becker suggested that it would take about a year to fully resolve the case, which means, according to him, that the settlement would be larger if they won after trial rather than if it were settled now.

“Sadly, the police stood down… and… (did) not protect the people in Sproul Plaza,” Steel said. “The police … primarily have to protect citizens. We need to find out who told them not to protect the civilians. Somebody needs to be held accountable.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at mkrishnan@dailycal.org and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.

Read more at The Daily Californian.