Man guilty of infractions in downtown incident
by Robb Fulcher
A man who claims Hermosa police zapped him with a Taser and struck him with a baton or a flashlight in a downtown incident was convicted of having an open container of alcohol and littering, and was fined $1,400 for the infractions.
Commissioner Steven L. Berman handed down the decision on Thursday, following two half-days of trial with eight witnesses, said attorney Damian Capozzola, who prosecuted the case for the City of Hermosa Beach.
Capozzola said Brian Seidensticker was holding an open beer bottle and arguing with another man when Hermosa Beach Police Officer Nick Garcia came upon him. Garcia was looking for a suspect in an assault that had occurred nearby, and paused to break up the argument and tell Seidensticker to pour out his beer, Capozzola said.
Seidensticker threw down the beer bottle, breaking it, and ran, with Garcia following him, Capozzola said. Seidensticker ran past the scene of the assault, where police and firefighters were aiding the victim and talking to witnesses, when Officer Everett Faulk zapped him with the Taser, thinking Garcia was chasing their assault suspect, Capozzola said.
A civil claim for damages filed by Seidensticker alleged that he was zapped and struck without warning in a parking lot behind the Bank of America building at the corner of Hermosa and Pier avenues. His attorney, Tom Beck, said that Seidensticker was on his way to get his bicycle when he ran past police.
The City Council rejected the claim, and Capozzola said the decision in Superior Court confirmed the city’s position.
“It was the defense position that the whole thing was a giant conspiracy, that Garcia and Seidensticker had never interacted. The judge rejected this,” Capozzola said.
Two police officers and three firefighters testified in court, and mounted a vigorous defense of his client, Capozzola said.
Beck was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
Capozzola, a civil litigation partner in the firm of Epstein, Becker and Green, represented the Hermosa Beach city prosecutor’s office at no charge, as part of the Trial Advocacy Prosecution Program, often called TAPP, in which private attorneys aid municipalities.
“In this time of limited resources, we are very fortunate to have top quality litigators available on a volunteer basis to assist my office in trying cases,” City Prosecutor John Kildebeck said. “TAPP attorneys always apply tremendous effort to their cases to get the best possible results.” ER