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Excessive slang? Palo Alto seeks dismissal of lawsuit from violent Happy Donuts arrest

City's attorneys assert claim from Julio Arevalo's lawyers fails to meet federal rules for 'plain, concise' language

Julio Arevalo was taken down to the ground and handcuffed during a July 10, 2019 arrest that prompted him to later file a claim against the city. Screenshot courtesy Palo Alto Police Department.

Nearly a year after Palo Alto settled a lawsuit over an arrest in Barron Park in which an officer slammed a man's head on a car windshield, the City Council finds itself in a familiar position, with another resident suing the city over another violent arrest in the same neighborhood.

The council met in a closed session on Monday night to discuss the ongoing lawsuit from Julio Arevalo, whose violent arrest in front of Happy Donuts by police Agent Thomas DeStefano was captured by both body cameras and a surveillance camera. Video footage showed DeStefano approaching Arevalo, asking him to stop. When Arevalo tried to walk away, the officer followed him, grabbed him and, after a brief struggle, flipped him onto the ground in a move that shattered Arevalo's orbital bone, according to the federal complaint.

The council did not take any reportable action after the closed session, Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said after the meeting. But even as the council considers its next move, the city's attorneys are trying to get the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the 199-page claim filed by Arevalo's attorney is, among other qualities, too long and too sarcastic.

That's the argument that the city's team of lawyers, which includes Jon Heaberlin, Marc Davis, Eric Bengtson, Steven Dippell, Patrick Malloy, Dale Allen, Kevin Allen and Todd Master, is trying to advance in a Sept. 8 filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The attorneys specifically allege that the claim filed by Arevalo's attorney, Cody Salfen, violates Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, which calls for a "short and plain statement of claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and that requires each allegation to be "simply concise and direct."

While the argument from the city's attorneys says little about DeStefano's conduct on the night July 10, 2019, it focuses largely on the style of Salfen's complaint. It also claims that the defendants would be facing an "unfair burden" if they were compelled to "try to decipher the allegations in the Complaint that may apply to them, and craft answers to the 807 numbered paragraphs, multiple photographs, sarcasm, inflammatory warnings, rhetorical questions, etc."

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The city's motion to dismiss Arevalo's complaint also quotes several cases in the 199-page document that feature slang and colloquialisms. The claim, for instance, states "Nope, we're not in Kansas (anymore)" in the introduction, after showing a photo of Arevalo (whom it described as a "donut-wielding Latino male") with a black eye. The claim also uses phrases like "Back to the donut shop" during the narrative as it transitions from describing Arevalo's injury to talking about DeStefano's involvement in the violent arrest of Gustavo Alvarez in 2018, which led to a $572,500 settlement from the city. It also led to a letter of apology from former Sgt. Wayne Benitez, who is now facing misdemeanor charges of assault under the color of authority and lying on a police report for allegedly slamming Alvarez on the windshield of a vehicle and then not reporting the use of force.

While the complaint submitted by Salfen and Samuel J. Gordon attempts to paint a picture of a Police Department engaging in a pattern of excessive force and cover-up, the city's attorneys assert that the claim attempts to "expand the scope of relevant and admissible evidence" and that it is "filled with superfluous material."

Julio Arevalo was taken down to the ground and handcuffed during the July 10, 2019, arrest that prompted him to later file a complaint against the city. Courtesy Palo Alto Police Department.

Sarcasm and slang, sensationalized warnings to the public, rhetorical questions and colloquialisms "may increase the odds of media coverage, but are an affront to the solemnity of the judicial process and have no place in a United States District Court complaint," the city's motion states.

In responding to the charge, Arevalo's attorneys assert that the city's "characterizations are far more overstated than anything in the Complaint."

"It should be remembered that Defendants are accused here of a civil conspiracy, borne of a culture of violence and corrupt self-protection," Salfen wrote. "The so-called 'sensationalized warnings' are in fact reasonable summaries of implicit messages, to employees and the public by the Department's pattern of misconduct and cover-up."

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In addressing accusations of using too many rhetorical devices, Arevalo's attorneys write that the "use of occasional words which help bind the document cohesively together does nothing to confuse or otherwise prejudice the Defendants in their quest to understand the claims stated."

The city's attorneys also assert that Arevalo's claim is too broad and that it fails to prove that some of the Palo Alto Police Department employees that are named in the lawsuit were involved in anything illegal. This includes Sgt. Sascha Priess, Lt. Ben Becchetti, Officer Brian Connelly, Sgt. John Alaniz and Lisa Scheff, the department's records manager.

Salfen and Gordon argue in their response that all of the named defendants have either participated in the attack on Arevalo or in the subsequent cover-up and maintain that the city's "broad attack" on the claim is without merit. They also request that if the court finds any part of the complaint deficient, that they be allowed to amend it.

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Excessive slang? Palo Alto seeks dismissal of lawsuit from violent Happy Donuts arrest

City's attorneys assert claim from Julio Arevalo's lawyers fails to meet federal rules for 'plain, concise' language

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 22, 2020, 9:42 am

Nearly a year after Palo Alto settled a lawsuit over an arrest in Barron Park in which an officer slammed a man's head on a car windshield, the City Council finds itself in a familiar position, with another resident suing the city over another violent arrest in the same neighborhood.

The council met in a closed session on Monday night to discuss the ongoing lawsuit from Julio Arevalo, whose violent arrest in front of Happy Donuts by police Agent Thomas DeStefano was captured by both body cameras and a surveillance camera. Video footage showed DeStefano approaching Arevalo, asking him to stop. When Arevalo tried to walk away, the officer followed him, grabbed him and, after a brief struggle, flipped him onto the ground in a move that shattered Arevalo's orbital bone, according to the federal complaint.

The council did not take any reportable action after the closed session, Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said after the meeting. But even as the council considers its next move, the city's attorneys are trying to get the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the 199-page claim filed by Arevalo's attorney is, among other qualities, too long and too sarcastic.

That's the argument that the city's team of lawyers, which includes Jon Heaberlin, Marc Davis, Eric Bengtson, Steven Dippell, Patrick Malloy, Dale Allen, Kevin Allen and Todd Master, is trying to advance in a Sept. 8 filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The attorneys specifically allege that the claim filed by Arevalo's attorney, Cody Salfen, violates Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, which calls for a "short and plain statement of claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and that requires each allegation to be "simply concise and direct."

While the argument from the city's attorneys says little about DeStefano's conduct on the night July 10, 2019, it focuses largely on the style of Salfen's complaint. It also claims that the defendants would be facing an "unfair burden" if they were compelled to "try to decipher the allegations in the Complaint that may apply to them, and craft answers to the 807 numbered paragraphs, multiple photographs, sarcasm, inflammatory warnings, rhetorical questions, etc."

The city's motion to dismiss Arevalo's complaint also quotes several cases in the 199-page document that feature slang and colloquialisms. The claim, for instance, states "Nope, we're not in Kansas (anymore)" in the introduction, after showing a photo of Arevalo (whom it described as a "donut-wielding Latino male") with a black eye. The claim also uses phrases like "Back to the donut shop" during the narrative as it transitions from describing Arevalo's injury to talking about DeStefano's involvement in the violent arrest of Gustavo Alvarez in 2018, which led to a $572,500 settlement from the city. It also led to a letter of apology from former Sgt. Wayne Benitez, who is now facing misdemeanor charges of assault under the color of authority and lying on a police report for allegedly slamming Alvarez on the windshield of a vehicle and then not reporting the use of force.

While the complaint submitted by Salfen and Samuel J. Gordon attempts to paint a picture of a Police Department engaging in a pattern of excessive force and cover-up, the city's attorneys assert that the claim attempts to "expand the scope of relevant and admissible evidence" and that it is "filled with superfluous material."

Sarcasm and slang, sensationalized warnings to the public, rhetorical questions and colloquialisms "may increase the odds of media coverage, but are an affront to the solemnity of the judicial process and have no place in a United States District Court complaint," the city's motion states.

In responding to the charge, Arevalo's attorneys assert that the city's "characterizations are far more overstated than anything in the Complaint."

"It should be remembered that Defendants are accused here of a civil conspiracy, borne of a culture of violence and corrupt self-protection," Salfen wrote. "The so-called 'sensationalized warnings' are in fact reasonable summaries of implicit messages, to employees and the public by the Department's pattern of misconduct and cover-up."

In addressing accusations of using too many rhetorical devices, Arevalo's attorneys write that the "use of occasional words which help bind the document cohesively together does nothing to confuse or otherwise prejudice the Defendants in their quest to understand the claims stated."

The city's attorneys also assert that Arevalo's claim is too broad and that it fails to prove that some of the Palo Alto Police Department employees that are named in the lawsuit were involved in anything illegal. This includes Sgt. Sascha Priess, Lt. Ben Becchetti, Officer Brian Connelly, Sgt. John Alaniz and Lisa Scheff, the department's records manager.

Salfen and Gordon argue in their response that all of the named defendants have either participated in the attack on Arevalo or in the subsequent cover-up and maintain that the city's "broad attack" on the claim is without merit. They also request that if the court finds any part of the complaint deficient, that they be allowed to amend it.

Comments

Barron Parker Too
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:24 am
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:24 am
40 people like this

Glad the city is fighting this. Someone who resists arrest and then engages in a violent fight with the officer, resulting in an injury, is not a victim. On the contrary, he is a criminal who should be subject to the full force of the law for resisting arrest and endangering the cop.

The last thing we need is to encourage criminals to deliberately engage in violence, hoping for a big payout from the city (i.e., from us).


Paly Parent
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:46 am
Paly Parent, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:46 am
32 people like this

Violent? Not sure what you're seeing but he wasn't violent. The police officer was out of line and used excessive force.


Misplaced Priorities
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Misplaced Priorities, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 12:19 pm
25 people like this

I wish the City took nearly as seriously Veteran Officer Agent Tom DeStefano's needless bone breaking of Julio Aravalo's face, as it takes umbrage of word useage and the length of the Complaint filed by his attorney in his federal civil rights lawsuit. DeStefano's contact with Arevalo was needless and then open to de-escalation once initiated. But DeStafano wanted what he wanted and so it went.

DeStefano's infliction of his latest tramatic injury on a Palo Altan under color of law was another bread crumb of brutality dropped him, with the City being sued to pay for a police culture that fuels his actions with policies and a union that supports Officers no matter what. Even his off-duty drunken vehicular hit-and run where he repeatedly lied to police investigators about it only earned him an infraction (like a traffic ticket). The PAPD investigates itself, and binding arbitration makes it next to impossible to fire an Officer.

We only know what what is caught on public video. We don't know what the PAPD does otherwise. The FBI sure thinks something is going on, given it's investigating the PAPD for civil rights violations.

A recent brutality case was covered-up by several Officers for a 1 1/2 years, finally revealed by public, not police video. It's not just bad apples, its a bad police culture and it needs big change bottom up, top down - policies, union contract, the City Council reasserting its oversight and direction to staff to get it done. But only if the Council is serious about reform of the PAPD.

If the City is not serious, it's complicit in this police brutality. By never admitting wrongdoing, going to court over petty trivialities, refusing at evey turn to take the highroad rather than the low, we dishonor community, particularly brown and black residents. If we are an enlightened community we will insist significant actions are taken to stop this.


Joel
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 22, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Joel, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 12:26 pm
4 people like this

Barron Parker Too
Could you please explain what criminal behavior the subject of the beating is accused of?
I thought police accusations were dismissed.
Thank you.


Misplaced Priorities
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Misplaced Priorities , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm
22 people like this

DeStefano said he saw Arevalo hand to hand drug dealing at happy donuts. Only there were no drugs found on him, in his daypack, or anywhere on the premises. And no drug dealing shown on any police or the Happy Donut video. No evidence of any crime whatsoever.

The deflection and denigration of Arevalo is bizarre. The laws, US and State Constitutions were written to protect everyone equally and in fact it was recognized that protection was needed especially when some may try to marginalize or attempt to persuade that some don’t deserve these rights and protections - such as we see here.


Registered Voter
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Registered Voter , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:15 pm
17 people like this

The first posted comment by Barron Parker Too, defending the actions of that Destefano cop with a large history of violence with the department is with no doubt either a family member, a close friend or one of his many corrupt fellow uniformed brothers. It is just sad that the DA is just seeking misdemeanor charges when real Felony charges are warranted, but I guess something is better than nothing. Good luck having that lawsuit tossed out, it is by all means VERY SOLID and it will stick. Let see how many millions of dollars the residents is Palo Alto have to pay out before they decide to put a stop to violent criminal cop behavior.


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm
3 people like this

Disappointed to not see "tone policing" in the headline :)


Misplaced Priorities
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:33 pm
Misplaced Priorities, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:33 pm
14 people like this

To clarify - This incident is NOT the one where now retired Sgt Benitiz was just charged with misdemeanor assault under the color of law and lying on a police report. He slammed the head of handcuffed, non-resisting Latino low income man into a windshild.

Unfortunately there have been multiple incidents, so its hard to keep them straight.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:39 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2020 at 1:39 pm
15 people like this

There is always 2 sides to a story. Personally, I would not want to be a police officer and be subject to some of the anger, disrespect, and violence they come in contact with. I am not saying the police officer was correct, just that having your life on the line in some situations is not something many of us, me for sure, want to experience. I ask that all of you think about your true reaction to when you see various people on the streets. What is the first thought that comes to mind? Is it something positive about a person or is it a stereotype or is it a negative perception based on what you see? The key is to be 100% honest with this. We all need to change. Remember, when you point, 3 fingers are pointing back at you. Let's all take some time to really see who we are being and decide if that is how you want to continue being. Now is the time for change. We cannot continue as a community, state, country always pointing fingers. Let's have some empathy and kindness. Put yourself in others shoes once in a while. We all can benefit from more positive energy in our community and world.


Jimmy
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 23, 2020 at 6:59 am
Jimmy , Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 6:59 am
4 people like this

Clearly the video shows the cop using force that's not needed. The cop went over board on this one. So many incidents like this is, Its hard to keep up with all of them. Another law suit that PAPD will have to pay. If i was that officer i would transfer to OAkland with that energy. Clearly he's not a good fit in PA. San Fran or Oakland will suit him better. POLICE REFORM.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 23, 2020 at 1:42 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 1:42 pm
8 people like this

The suspect in this case was violating his terms of probation. He resisted arrest. If he had NOT resisted arrest and complied with the officer, he would not have been forcefully arrested.

Sadly, the people defending this criminal never seem to put any responsibility on the suspect. YOU DO NOT HAVE A 'RIGHT' TO RESIST ARREST.

If people didn't resist arrest, then the situations wouldn't escalate. In this case, the escalation was ENTIRELY the fault of the criminal suspect.


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