KeyPoint suit to be dropped

City to pay $12,000 to group that sought re­port on shoot­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By Tony Plo­het­ski AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF

Austin city of­fi­cials plan to pay about $12,000 in le­gal fees to a civil rights group in ex­change for the or­ga­ni­za­tion with­draw­ing a law­suit that sought the re­sults of an out­side re­view into a fa­tal po­lice shoot­ing.

A judge has not signed off on the agree­ment be­tween the city and the Texas Civil Rights Project, but of­fi­cials said they ex­pect to re­solve the mat­ter in com­ing days.

Project Di­rec­tor Jim Harrington said the group de­cided to drop the suit, filed in April, af­ter city of­fi­cials re­leased the re­port by KeyPoint Govern­ment So­lu­tions in May and agreed to pay the fees.

City lead­ers had said for nearly eight months that a full copy of the re­port, which re­viewed the ac­tions of se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer Leonardo Quin­tana in the fa­tal shoot­ing of Nathaniel San­ders II in May 2009, was con­fi­den­tial.

They changed that stance af­ter an Amer­i­can-States­man story that showed the city had

re­leased a sim­i­lar re­port in 2004.

“We got what we wanted, and the re­port is out,” Harrington said. “There is noth­ing more to lit­i­gate.”

He said state law al­lowed the civil rights project to seek the le­gal fees, which the court set based on the num­ber of hours lawyers and clerks spent on the case.

City spokesman Reyne Telles said Wed­nes­day that of­fi­cials chose to “move on from this is­sue” and have “elected to have the case re­solved in such a man­ner.”

“We will be pay­ing the attorneys’ fees in or­der to close the case,” Telles said.

The ac­tion did not meet the fi­nan­cial thresh­old that would have re­quired City Coun­cil ap­proval.

Of­fi­cials have said that Quin­tana fa­tally shot San­ders dur­ing a strug­gle for a gun in an apart­ment com­plex park­ing lot. Quin­tana was sus­pended for 15 days for fail­ing to ac­ti­vate his pa­trol car cam­era but was not dis­ci­plined for his tac­tics or use of deadly force. He was fired from the force in May af­ter a drunken driv­ing ar­rest this year.

Last year, city of­fi­cials hired KeyPoint to re­view the shoot­ing but re­leased only a heav­ily redacted copy of its re­port.

Of­fi­cials cited state law, which said that only in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to al­le­ga­tions for which Quin­tana was dis­ci­plined could be made pub­lic.

They later clar­i­fied a con­tract with the po­lice union and re­leased the re­port.

City At­tor­ney David Smith, whose le­gal depart­ment had said that the re­port was con­fi­den­tial, re­tired from the city in May and took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the han­dling of the re­port’s re­lease.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Chris Ri­ley said Wed­nes­day that he thinks the city’s pay­ment of at­tor­ney fees to the civil rights project is ap­pro­pri­ate.

“I wish that we had found a way to re­lease (the re­port) sooner, and I think that the city bears some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fact that it wasn’t re­leased sooner,” he said.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Sh­eryl Cole said she con­sid­ers the city’s agree­ment to cover the project’s le­gal fees “a down pay­ment on mov­ing for­ward in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion with Harrington and his or­ga­ni­za­tion to ad­dress the com­plex so­cial is­sues fac­ing our com­mu­nity.”

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