LOS ANGELES (CN) - Manhattan Beach police, targeting men they suspect of being gay, wrongfully arrested a disabled child's caregiver in a public rest room and published his photo on a police website, the man claims in court.
Charles Samuel Couch sued the City of Manhattan Beach, its Police Chief Eve Irvine and five detectives, in Federal Court. He claims his photo was published in news reports on a sex sting operation that led to the arrest of 18 men.
Couch claims the March 9, 2012 fiasco happened while he caring for a boy with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder whose symptoms include mental retardation, diminished functional activity of the gonads, and arrested sexual development.
On that day, the child, identified as D.K., needed to use a beach restroom on Marine Avenue and the Strand, Couch says in the lawsuit.
Couch did not know the bathroom was the target of a sting operation and that a hole had been cut into the wall of the stall the child was using, so men could engage in sexual activity.
Because it can take a long time for people with Prader-Willi Syndrome to use the rest room, Couch says, he stood and waited for D.K. to finish. As he waited, defendant Det. John Nasori entered the stall next to D.K.'s, according to the complaint.
"A few minutes later the child bolted from the stall, rushed up to plaintiff and whispered, 'There is a man looking at me in the stall!' Horrified, plaintiff said: 'Lets get out of here,'" Couch says in the lawsuit.
He claims Nasori pursued them out of the rest room, where Couch ran into the four other detectives, who were dressed in plain clothes and looked like "thugs."
Believing that the men wanted to kidnap D.K., Couch grabbed the child, and then was "tackled, choked, and handcuffed," taken to jail and interrogated.
During interrogation, Couch "was accused of being sexually interested in other men, and asked if he would take his own little brother to a party to get 'laid,'" the complaint states.
After police called D.K.'s parents and confirmed that the child had Prader-Willi Syndrome, Couch says, he was released without charge.
He claims that while he was being questioned, police ransacked his car without a warrant, and found his personal laptop computer. He claims that Nasori committed perjury by testifying that the laptop had been used to commit a serious crime.
Couch says a Beverly Hills detective found nothing relating to "glory holes" or child pornography on the computer. "It was finally returned months later," Couch says.
"Meanwhile plaintiff was forced to withdraw from all his classes at EI Camino Junior College because his entire school work was on that computer."
A month later, Couch was "shocked and horrified" to see his photo published on the website of the Daily Breeze, in a story about the sting operation. The Daily Breeze is a 70,000 circulation daily based in Torrance.
"This photo and caption were given to the media who have published it nationwide," the lawsuit states.
To cap it off, Couch says, 11 months later, Manhattan police sent him notice of an outstanding warrant for resisting, obstructing or delaying a police officer.
Those charges were dismissed, Couch says. He claims Manhattan Beach police customarily arrest men without warrant or probable cause, and publicize the false arrests.
Manhattan Beach police "never arrest men by women decoy officers for non-monetary sexual solicitations or for loitering nor do they arrest women by male decoy officers for non-monetary sexual solicitations," the lawsuit states.
Couch seeks damages for violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments and also makes a Monell claim. He seeks punitive damages against Nasori for his alleged perjury.
Couch is represented by Bruce Nickerson of San Carlos.
The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.