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Seattle Settles 'Mexican Piss' Lawsuit

Amy Radil

The man who sued the Seattle Police Department over a racially charged threat has settled his case. The city of Seattle will pay him $150,000, but admit no wrongdoing. Martin Monetti's case helped prompt Justice Department scrutiny of Seattle police.


Martin Monetti had filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city of Seattle and two police officers. Last week a judge ruled that the case could go to trial. But now the parties have settled.

The video of Seattle Police Detective Shandy Cobane threatening to beat the "Mexican piss" out of Monetti hit the airwaves in April 2010. And was played again and again.

Stearns: "It just kind of got burned, not just into my mind, but Seattle's collective consciousness."

That's Chris Stearns, chair of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. He says afterwards, community groups were glad to hear Seattle Police Department (SPD) officials proclaim zero tolerance towards biased policing. They also disciplined and demoted Officer Cobane. But the city's legal filings seemed to tell a different story, calling Cobane's words a control tactic.

Stearns: "We hear a strong message on one hand and then on the other, you hear the city saying 'no, no, this is a control tactic and an acceptable control tactic.' And that sends the opposite message, not just to the community, but to the police force itself."

In a statement, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said he had a duty to defend the city against Monetti's claims for damages. But he condemned Cobane's words as "unacceptable and unprofessional."

This was one in a string of cases that led to a Justice Department (DOJ) probe of Seattle police — the two sides are currently in mediation. The DOJ specifically cited Monetti's case as an example of problems within SPD.

Monetti's lawyer, Lorena Gonzalez, says those problems are still there.

Gonzalez: "This case is a clear example of the hardened culture that exists at the Seattle Police Department with regard to biased policing and other racial issues."

But she calls the $150,000 settlement reasonable and fair for the harm her client suffered. She says she believes a court–appointed monitor is the only solution that will make adequate changes at SPD.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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