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Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against City of Pasadena

Published on Thursday, May 26, 2016 | 9:43 am

The City of Pasadena was hit with a civil rights complaint filing Thursday by attorneys representing two women who claim a Pasadena police officer improperly used his authority in what amounted to a campaign against them to deprive them of their civil rights.

The filing by attorneys John Burton and William M. Paparian on behalf of Michelle D. Rodgers and Sélah Chavét names as defendants the City of Pasadena, Pasadena Police Department, Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, Pasadena Police Sgt. Michael Bugh, Pasadena Police Sgt. Keith Gomez, Pasadena Police Officers Crawford, Tavera, A. Gonzalez and Lewis as well as Does 1-10.

The case has been assigned to Federal Judge Christina Snyder, who presides in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California in Los Angeles, the attorneys said.

City of Pasadena Press Information Officer William Boyer said he was unaware of the complaint, noting that the filing may take some time to be served on city officials.

“I don’t have anything to say or share until we have an opportunity to actually see the case,” Boyer said.

Michelle Rodgers Photo courtesy the Pasadena Weekly

According to the complaint, in late February, at the Pasadena home of Verta L. Bugh, 85, Pasadena Police Sgt. Michael Bugh, who is her son, directed the arrest of his sister, Michelle D. Rodgers, after he learned she was at a local bank cashing a check from their mother’s credit card account. The day before, Rodgers had appealed to Sgt. Bugh for financial assistance because she and her mother were running out of food and household supplies and there was not enough funding in Bugh’s checking account to pay for the items. After there was no response from Sgt. Bugh, Verta Bugh wrote a check for $1,000 to Rodgers from a credit card account to pay for the necessary items.

The complaint alleges that Sgt. Bugh later that day improperly used his authority as a supervisor in the Pasadena Police Department to direct four police officers and possibly others, with the approval of Sgt. Keith Gomez, to arrest Rodgers on felony elder abuse charges without a warrant or probable cause, violating established federal and state constitutional laws.

The complaint also states that while the arrest was in progress, Bugh used his position with the Pasadena Police Department to confiscate his sister’s set of keys to their mother’s car as well as the $1,000 in cash from the check written by Verta Bugh.

Rodgers was transferred by the Pasadena Police Department to the women’s jail in Lynwood, operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where she was booked and detained for two days. The complaint states that when Rodgers was released she discovered Sgt. Bugh had her dog impounded and she was able to retrieve the dog before it was euthanized. Soon after her release the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office rejected all charges against her.

On March 1 Sgt. Bugh applied to the L.A. County Superior Court for a variety of orders, including removing Rodgers and her dog from Verta Bugh’s home, barring Rodgers’s access to their mother’s vehicle and changing the locks at Verta Bugh’s home. A 2014 amended trust agreement legally signed by Verta Bugh allows Rodgers to live in her mother’s home. Sgt. Bugh has been aware of this agreement, which also appoints Sgt. Bugh and Rodgers as co-trustees in the event of Mrs. Bugh’s incapacity or death.

Sgt. Bugh’s applications were denied by the Superior Court.

Although the court denied his applications, the suit alleges that Sgt. Bugh barred Rodgers from living at their mother’s home, changed the locks and moved her furniture to the garage.

On the evening of May 12, Rodgers and lifelong friend Sélah Chavét visited Verta Bugh. Because the locks had been changed, Rodgers entered through a window to open a door so Chavét could enter the home. According to the complaint filed by Burton and Paparian, Sgt. Bugh directed several Pasadena police officers to arrest Rodgers and Chavét for trespassing, without benefit of a warrant or probable cause.

According to the complaint, Rodgers and Chavét were handcuffed, transported to the Pasadena Police Department jail, booked and detained for several hours. Chavét’s handcuffs were applied too tightly, resulting in injury to her wrists. The Pasadena Police Department impounded the car Rodgers had to rent as a result of Sgt. Bugh confiscating her set of keys to their mother’s car after the false arrest in February. The rental car had been parked legally in the driveway of Verta Bugh’s home. The Pasadena City Prosecutor’s Office rejected all charges.

The complaint filed by Burton and Paparian also states that Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez was aware of repeated, alleged misconduct on the parts of Sgts. Bugh and Gomez over the course of several years that went unchecked. In addition it states that, although Rodgers filed her own complaint with the Pasadena Police Department following her false arrest and detainment in February, no action was taken, enabling Sgt. Bugh to abuse his authority again in March.

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