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UC pepper-spray settlement about $1 million

  • The Sacramento Bee
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012, at 3:19 p.m.

The University of California regents have agreed to pay out roughly $1 million to end a lawsuit over last November's pepper spraying of UC-Davis students, part of a deal that also calls for a personal written apology from Chancellor Linda Katehi to each person hit with the spray.

The details of the settlement, approved in secret earlier this month by the regents, are contained in documents filed in federal court in Sacramento this morning.

The deal, hammered out in mediation sessions after 21 students and former students sued last February, still must be approved by a federal judge.

It calls for each of the 21 plaintiffs to receive $30,000 for a total payout of $630,000. The agreement also transforms the suit into a class action, which will allow others who were hit with pepper spray during the Nov. 18 protest to submit claims for payments of up to $20,000.

That part of the deal envisions five to 10 additional claimants coming forward, with a sliding scale that reduces the payout for each of those depending on the final tally. Those claimants wil be paid from a pool of money limited to $100,000.

In addition, the settlement calls for the payment of $250,000 in legal fees and costs to the lawyers who filed the suit.

The settlement fees will be paid out of UC's self-insurance fund.

The American Civil Liberties Union spearheaded the effort and is expected to hold a press conference on the UC Davis campus this morning.

The settlement agreement notes that the regents are not conceding wrongdoing in the incident and that the defendants "acted reasonably and with good intentions."

The agreement allows students hit with the pepper spray to receive assistance and counseling for "academic performance issues that allegedly arose" from the incident.

The deal also allots $20,000 to the ACLU for legal fees to review and provide input on UC-Davis policies on handling demonstrations.

The settlement stems from a Nov. 18 protest at which students had gathered to demonstrate against rising tuition costs and reduced services. Campus police moved in to oust students who were camping on the Quad and, after a series of warnings, used pepper spray on the protesters.

The settlement brings the total payout for the pepper spray incident to well over $2 million so far.

Documents released to The Bee by UC officials Tuesday in response to a Public Records Act request filed in July give the most detailed figures yet for costs associated with the incident, including:

-- $320,000 paid to the Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm in San Francisco for work on a systemwide review of how UC campuses should respond to protests.

-- $88,686 paid in salaries and other fees to UC Berkeley officials who worked on that review.

-- $119,714 paid to Marsh Risk and Insurance Services of San Francisco to provide "real time crisis management support for UC Davis."

-- and $445,879 paid to investigators for the Kroll consulting firm that conducted an investigation into the pepper spray incident for an independent panel headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.

Kroll's billing included more than $10,707 in air fare, $3,181 in ground transportation and $8,800 in hotel charges.

Another $230,256 was paid out for an internal affairs investigation into the actions of Lt. John Pike, one of two officers who deployed the pepper spray. Pike ultimately was fired by UC Davis.

These amounts do not include various other salary figures and legal fees associated with the protest and its messy aftermath.

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