Morgan Stevens LA Times 1991

City, Actor Settle Suit Over Alleged Jail Beating - Police: Morgan Stevens contends he was attacked by authorities after a traffic accident. His lawyers say the LAPD was unwilling to risk the publicity of a trial in the wake of the Rodney King case.

June 27, 1991

Attorneys for the city on Wednesday tentatively approved an out-of-court settlement in a police brutality lawsuit by actor Morgan Stevens, who contends he was beaten by two Los Angeles Police Department jailers in 1989 after a minor traffic accident.

Stevens, 39, who was a regular on the TV series "A Year in the Life," "Fame" and "The Waltons," had sought $10 million. Under the agreement, which must be approved by the City Council, neither side would discuss the settlement amount.

"Let's just say I'm glad this is behind me and I'm looking forward now to resuming my life and career," Stevens said, after six hours of negotiations mediated by a Santa Monica Superior Court judge.

His lawyers said the outcome vindicates their client, and signaled the Police Department's unwillingness to risk the publicity of a trial in the aftermath of the Rodney G. King case.

"There's no question the King case entered into the equation," attorney Jeffrey M. Galen said. Speaking to reporters briefly after the talks, however, Assistant City Atty. Honey Lewis said the city attorney's office had been "ready to go to trial." However, she declined to discuss the case.

Stevens was arrested in August, 1989, on suspicion of driving under the influence after a minor auto accident on Pacific Coast Highway as he returned to his then home in Malibu from a doctor's appointment. A blood-alcohol test later cleared him of driving under the influence.

He said that the investigating officer mistakenly assumed he was drunk because he had just taken a prescription pain reliever for a bad back, and that because of surgery on his vocal chords, he could not make himself understood.

"With the roar of the traffic and the ocean, I was having trouble communicating and I think they thought, 'We'd better take him in,' " Stevens said.

The actor contends the beating took place after he had been held for 1 1/2 hours at the West Los Angeles police station and was told he was free to go after posting $500 bail.

His lawsuit accused jailers Thaddeus Stewart and Karl H. Josaphat of punching and kicking him at least two dozen times after they became upset when he refused to fold and hand them a shirt he had taken off and tossed on the floor after being ordered to disrobe for a body search.

The actor suffered a broken nose, a fractured cheek, a dislocated jaw and nerve damage to the right side of his face as a result of the beatings, he said.

In an interview, Stevens said the injuries, coupled with bouts of depression as a result of the incident, "pretty much brought my career to a screeching halt."

"I mean this happened just after 'A Year in the Life' when people were literally leaving scripts on my doorstep," he said. The actor said he has since been unable to work and has had to refinance his home in Sherman Oaks.

Galen, his lawyer, said Stevens "has every reason to be pleased" with the settlement amount. During the settlement talks, Galen made available to reporters police photos of his client taken at the jail, showing Stevens with a black right eye, and facial cuts and bruises.

"My big disappointment, assuming this (settlement) goes through, is that these (jailers) still have their jobs," Stevens said. "I keep thinking that if this kind of thing can happen to someone like me, it can truly happen to anyone."
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