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Orange County Register article

Fullerton police probe arrest

Attorney David Borsari

David Borsari, the criminal attorney for Veth Mam, who was arrested by Fullerton police last October for resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and later acquitted of all charges in his July trial, speaks about the trial and subsequent allegations involving the Fullerton police in light of the Kelly Thomas case. SAM GANGWER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

FULLERTON The acting Fullerton police chief has ordered an internal-affairs investigation into the October arrest of a man who was later acquitted of attacking a police officer and resisting arrest, a police sergeant said.

Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said the investigation was launched after the department was made aware of a cellphone video of the Oct. 23 arrest of Veth Mam and after accusations of perjury and wrongful arrest.
Capt. Kevin Hamilton, put in charge immediately after Chief Michael Sellers went on medical leave, ordered the investigation this week to determine what happened during the arrest and during Mam's trial, Goodrich said.

"(Hamilton) became very concerned because upon initial investigation, it appears we may have arrested the wrong guy that night," Goodrich said. "During our examination of the video, it appears that Mam was not the person who assaulted the first officer earlier in the video. But that's what the investigation is going to look into."

Goodrich said investigators will examine court transcripts and talk to the parties involved to determine what happened and why.

"Did the officers lie? Did they make a mistake? Did they have other information that wasn't captured in the video?" Goodrich said.

Mam was acquitted July7 of misdemeanor charges of battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest, court records show.

Mam's attorney, Garo Mardirossian, who is also representing Kelly Thomas' father, said Mam was exonerated after a cellphone video surfaced of an officer grabbing his cellphone and then throwing him on the ground. He alleged that one of the officers was also involved in the Thomas incident.

Thomas, a 37-year-old mentally ill homeless man, died July 10, five days after a physical altercation with six Fullerton police officers.

Goodrich said he could not comment on whether any officers involved in Mam's arrest were also involved in the July 5 arrest of Thomas.

David Borsari, who represented Mam during the criminal trial, said that around 2 a.m. Oct. 23, Mam left a bar in downtown Fullerton and was walking to his car when he saw a friend being arrested by Fullerton police. Mam thought the police were using "excessive force" and began recording the incident.

While Mam, 35, was recording, an officer, identified as Kenton Hampton, struck him on the hand, and the cellphone flew out of his hand, Borsari said. A bystander picked up the phone and continued recording.

Borsari said the video was given to the District Attorney's Office about one month before the trial began at the end of June.

During the trial, officer Frank Nguyen testified that when he arrived in the 100 block of West Amerige Avenue, he saw officer Jonathan Miller wrestling with an uncooperative subject later identified as Sokha Leng, Borsari said. Nguyen also testified that Mam jumped on Miller's back and tried to choke him.

"It wasn't my client on his back. He was either filming or being filmed," Borsari said.
According to Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Lee, who prosecuted Mam's case, Miller reviewed the video: He pointed out that the recording began mid-fight, and the incident with Mam happened before the filming started.

"That to me seemed like a very reasonable explanation, because it does start mid-fight, and the only people who would know what happened would be the people who were there," Lee said.

On Wednesday, Mardirossian said he would file a claim by week's end against the city of Fullerton and the three officers involved in the incident. The claim, he said, will allege violation of civil rights, conspiracy to violate civil rights, malicious prosecution and battery.

Mardirossian said Mam suffered a bruised shoulder and arm and abrasions to his face.

"He was falsely arrested and accused of a crime he did not commit," Mardirossian said. "That's the injustice, that's the harm, that's the injury."

Fullerton PD: 'We may have arrested the wrong guy'

FULLERTON – The acting Fullerton police chief has ordered an internal-affairs investigation into the October arrest of a man who was later acquitted of attacking a police officer and resisting arrest, a police sergeant said.

Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said the investigation was launched after the department was made aware of a cellphone video of the Oct. 23 arrest of Veth Mam and after accusations of perjury and wrongful arrest.

Capt. Kevin Hamilton, put in charge immediately after Chief Michael Sellers went on medical leave, ordered the investigation this week to determine what happened during the arrest and during the trial, Goodrich said.

"(Hamilton) became very concerned because upon initial investigation, it appears we may have arrested the wrong guy that night," Goodrich said. "During our examination of the video, it appears that Mam was not the person who assaulted the first officer earlier in the video, but that's what the investigation is going to look into. Did the officers lie? Did they make a mistake? Did they have other information that wasn't captured in the video?" Goodrich said.

Mam was acquitted July 7 of misdemeanor charges of battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest, court records show.

Mam's attorney, Garo Mardirossian, who is also representing Kelly Thomas' father, said Mam was exonerated after a cellphone video surfaced of an officer grabbing his cell phone and then throwing him on the ground. He alleged that one of the officers was also involved in the Thomas incident.

Thomas, a 37-year-old mentally ill homeless man, died July 10, five days after a physical altercation with six Fullerton police officers.

Goodrich said he could not comment on whether any officers involved in Mam's arrest were also involved in the July 5 arrest of Thomas.

David Borsari, who represented Mam during the criminal trial, said that around 2 a.m. Mam left a bar in downtown Fullerton and was walking to his car when he saw a friend being arrested by Fullerton police. Mam thought the police were using "excessive force" and began recording the incident.

While Mam, 35, was recording, an officer, identified as Kenton Hampton, struck him in the hand, and the cellphone flew out of his hand, Borsari said. A bystander picked up the phone and continued recording.

Borsari said the video was given to the District Attorney's office about one month before the trial began in June.

During the trial, officer Frank Nguyen testified that when he arrived in the 100 block of West Amerige Avenue, he saw officer Jonathan Miller wrestling with an uncooperative subject later identified as Sokha Leng, Borsari said. Nguyen also testified that Mam jumped on Miller's back and tried to choke him.

"It wasn't my client on his back. He was either filming or being filmed," Borsari said.

On Wednesday, Mardirossian said he would file a claim by week's end against the city of Fullerton and the three officers involved in the incident. The claim, he said, will allege violation of civil rights, conspiracy to violate civil rights, malicious prosecution and battery.

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