Jury Finds SBPD Retaliated Against Gay Ex-Cop
by Lindsey Wallace A Santa Barbara jury found the Santa Barbara Police Department guilty of retaliation toward gay ex-cop Ruben Lino, though it ruled against Lino’s charges of discrimination based on sexual preference. After 18 days of testimony involving 23 witnesses, the visibly wearied jury deliberated for three days before awarding Lino $431,000 in damages and lost earnings Monday afternoon. Lino’s attorney, Janean Acevedo Daniels, acknowledged the discrimination case was tough to prove because many officers insisted they did not know Lino was gay. (Seven jurors supported Lino’s discrimination charges, two short of the number required for a favorable ruling.)
Lino, 28, left the SBPD in 2003 after three years on the force, claiming he’d been harassed after he complained about homophobic remarks made by some of his fellow officers. Lino also charged he was not receiving backup quickly enough to feel safe. One month after quitting, Lino sought to return to the department. Although Police Chief Cam Sanchez testified Lino was an exemplary officer, he ultimately chose not to rehire Lino because of a bad credit report. Lino claimed the credit report exaggerated the true extent of his debts; a retired sergeant who formerly conducted background checks buttressed this argument, saying the credit examination did not pass the smell test. Lino charged the department’s decision prevented him from landing jobs in other departments. After the verdict was read, several jurors explained they distrusted the department because it did not follow up on Lino’s objections to the credit report when he first made them. The jurors said they did not want the city to suffer, but Lino should be compensated for his loss of earnings. Some jurors thought he should get much more than he did, while others felt he shouldn’t get anything. The jurors compromised at $431,000.
“I’m okay with the verdict. This case was about the principle, never about the money,” Lino said. He is not interested in returning to work at the SBPD. With the trial behind him, Lino hopes to be hired by the Los Angeles Police Department; he has passed that department’s preliminary tests and will hear its decision in 15-30 days. City attorney Steve Wiley said he was disappointed by the verdict, but that it was too soon to say whether City Hall would appeal it or not.