Maria Teresa Macias Case
Lawsuit Text as Filed,
(Second Amended Complaint)
the text in PDF format 35.8KB
RICHARD A. SELTZER
CHRISTOPHER T. CODY (SBN 111464)
ANN M. HANSEN (SBN 122951)
SELTZER & CODY
180 Grand Avenue, Suite 1300
Oakland, CA 94612
3163 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94110
STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE- NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
OF MARIA TERESA MAClAS,
by and through its Successors in Interest;
AVELINO MAClAS, JR., minors,
by and through their Guardian, Sara Hernandez;
and SARA HERNANDEZ, Individually,
SHERIFF MARK LOPEZ,
THE COUNTY OF SONOMA,
and DOES ONE THROUGH ONE HUNDRED,
Case No. C-96-3658-DLJ
AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR
VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS
(42 U.S.C. § 1983)
-Jury Trial Demanded
This is a complaint
for money damages for the estate and children of the late Maria
Teresa Rubio de Macias hereinafter "Maria Teresa") and for her mother,
Sara Rubio Hernandez (hereinafter "Sara Hernandėz"). Sara Hernandez
sues in her own right for the wrongful death of her daughter and
guardian of the minor children, in the wake of Maria Teresa's murder
by her estranged husband, who then killed himself, on April 15,
1996, in Sonoma County, California.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
|This civil rights
action arises under Title 42 7 U.S.C. § 1983. Jurisdiction is based
upon 28 U.S.C. §~ 1331, 8 1332, and 1343. Venue in this district is
proper because the events at issue took place within the district
and the 10 Plaintiffs and defendants are found in this district.
|This action arises
in Sonoma County and assignment in either the Oakland Division or
San Francisco Headquarters is appropriate.
Macias, Claudia Macias, and Avelino Macias, Jr., minors, are the
children of Maria Teresa Maclas. They bring this action by and through
their grandmother and guardian, Sara Hernandez, to recover general
and special damages for the wrongful death caused by the Defendants.
Minor Plaintiffs are also the successors in interest to the Estate
of Maria Teresa Macias, which claims general damages, as set forth
in paragraph 15.
Hernandez is the mother of Maria Teresa Macias. She brings this
action to recover for the wrongful death of her daughter.
of Sonoma is a defendant in its own right on Plaintiffs' claims
pursuant to the unconstitutional policies, customs, and practices
of the Sheriff's Department as well as those of the District Attorney's
office, which poliies, customs, and practices caused the injuries
complained of herein. On information and belief, the Sheriff and
District Attorney of Sonoma County, and/or certain of their respective
subordinates whose identities are as yet unknown, are policymakers
for the County with authority to dictate the handling of domestic
violence cases, and the policies of the Sheriff's office and District
Attorney's office constitute official County policy.
At all relevant
times, Defendant Mark Lopez was a sheriff's deputy employed by the
County of Sonoma and was acting under color of state law.
not know the true names or capacities of the Defendants sued herein
by the fictitious names of Doe 1 through Doe 100, inclusive, and
therefore sue said Defendants by fictitious names. However, Plaintiffs
are informed and believe and based thereon allege that said Defendants
are other employees of the County of Sonoma and are in some way
responsi- ble for the injuries suffered by Plaintiffs as herein
At all relevant
times, the Defendants were each the agent, servant and employee
of each other, and these Defendants were acting within the course
and scope of said agency and employment with the knowledge and consent
of said employer and principal.
OF THE CASE
show that certain unconstitutional policies, customs and practices
of the defendant Sonoma County Sheriff's Department (hereinafter
"Sheriff's Department"), and the acts and omissions of individual
deputies and supervisors including Sheriff Ihde, and other unknown
named deputies sued herein as Does, and certain unconstitutional
policies, customs and practices of the District Attorney's office,
and the acts and omissions of individual assistant district attorneys
and supervisors, and other unknown employees sued herein as Does,
resulted in the failure to respond to Maria Teresa's reports that
her estranged husband was violating restraining orders and abusing
her and their children, or otherwise stop him from his relentless
pattern of abuse, stalking, intimidation, and violence toward Maria
Teresa. The Defendants in fact affirmatively increased the risk
that she would be a victim of serious criminal violence, causing
Maria Teresa to be deprived of her life and the enjoyment thereof,
and to suffer substantial injury and loss in the months leading
up to the murder; as well as caused Plaintiff Sara Hernandez to
incur damages resulting from her daughter's wrongful death; and
caused the minor children to be deprived of the care and comfort
of their mother by virtue of her wrongful death, all in violation
of the right to Equal Protection of Laws under the United States
Constitution and related provisions of state law.
allege that some of the unconstitu tional policies, customs and
practices which caused Plaintiffs' damages were part of long-standing,
pervasive unwritten policies, customs and practices of the Sonoma
County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's office of unconstitutional
discrimination against women and, in particular, a thoroughgoing
institutional indifference to complaints, and victims, of gender-based
violence against women. As a result, violence against women in Sonoma
County flourishes while women's rights are restricted, there are
fewer arrests and prosecutions in Sonoma County in cases of gender-based
violence against women than in other cases of violence, and many
women live in fear without a viable remedy.
Plaintiffs' damages were caused by long-standing, pervasive unwritten
policies, customs and practices of the Sheriff's Department and
the District Attorney's office of denying equal protection of the
law to victims of domestic violence, treating these kinds of crimes
different than other violent crime without any rational basis for
this classification system.
Plaintiffs' damages were caused by a pervasive discriminatory attitude
within the Sheriff's Department in general, and of certain personnel
within the Sheriff's Department in particular, as well as within
the District Attorney's office, towards Latinos.
The named Defendants
in complicity with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office,
with the knowledge and tacit approval of the Sonoma County Board
of Supervisors, have maintained a pattern of "dumping" case after
case of serious gender-based violence against women, and of domestic
of Prejudicial and Unequal Treatment of Women.
Victims of Gender-Based Violence Against Women,
Victims of Domestic Violence and Hispanics
Within the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department
And The District Attorney's Office
The Sonoma County
Sheriff's Department and its defendant employees discriminate against
women in all aspects of their work: in hiring and employment, in
dealing with complaints of sexual harassment of women employees,
in responding to reports and complaints of rape and sexual assault,
and complaints of domestic violence. In particular, Defendants have
ignored clearly-established state and federal constitutional standards1
explicit statutory mandates, and written policy objectives with
which they had agreed to comply, and instead have followed a practice
of prejudice and discrimination which have resulted in routinely
harmful and illegal acts and omissions by deputies and supervisory
staff in their official 19 dealings with women.
and his department top command sued herein as Does, have failed
and refused to require non-discriminatory attitudes and behavior
toward women, and victims of gender-based violence against women
in particular, and victins of domestic violence generally by deputies
and their supervisors, and to require deputies and their supervisors
to follow clearly-established laws, Community Task Force on Violence
Against Women recommendations, and current appropriate standards
of conduct and action in dealing with victims of gender-based violence
and domestic violence in general. As a result, Plaintiffs are informed
of many recent cases in which women reasonably seeking law enforcement
help and protection from gender-based violence and domestic violence
in general have been discouraged from filing complaints against
their perpetrators, deliberately misled about laws, available remedies,
and sources of help, dissuaded from contacting support groups, forced
to make repeated calls in order to get any law enforcement response
at all, and, in general, actively blocked, impaired and dismissed
in their attempts to find access to justice. As a further result,
women who are victims of gender-based crimes frequently become discouraged
and abandon their efforts to obtain help.
informed and believe and based thereon allege that the discrimination,
bias, and lack of law enforcement response which women suffer in
cases involving violence against them is even worse where the woman
is also a Latina, as the decedent Maria Teresa was in this case.
There exists a pervasive policy, custom and practice of harassment
and discrimination within the Sheriff's Department against the Latino
communities in Sonoma County.
are informed and believe and based thereon allege that the District
Attorney's Office has a policy and custom of discriminating against
women in general, Latinas in particular, and domestic violence victims
in par ticular, in its handling of reports and complaints of rape
and sexual assault, and complaints of domestic violence. In par
ticular, the District Attorney's office has followed a practice
of discrimination which has resulted in their failure and refusal
to prosecute reports of rape, sexual assault and other forms of
informed and believe and based thereon allege that the District
Attorney's office has been deliberately indifferent to its obligations
and therefore has failed and refused to supervise and/or train its
employees in the handling of cases involving gender-based violence
against women, and victims of domestic violence, and to require
its employees to follow proper procedures in dealing with police
reports of victims-of gender-based violence and domestic violence
in general. As a result, women who are victims of gender-based crimes
frequently become discouraged and abandon 1their efforts to obtain
informed and believe and based thereon allege that the discrimination
which women suffer in cases involving violence against them is even
worse where the woman is also a Latina, as the decedent Maria Teresa
was in this case. There exists a pervasive policy, custom and practice
of discrimination within the District Attorney's office against
the Latino communities in Sonoma County.
of Felony Criminal Conduct and Domestic Violence
Toward Maria Teresa By Her Estranged Husband
met Avelino Macias approximately 26 years ago in Mexico. Avelino
was already living in the United States. They married in 1982 and
later settled in Sonoma County. Avelino was a legal resident of
the United States Maria Teresa was not. They had three children,
Claudia, Juan and Avelino, Jr.
In or about
March, 1995, after a long course of increasingly aggravated physical,
emotional and sexual abuse of herself and her children by her husband,
Avelino, Maria Teresa left her home with her children and entered
a women's shelter in Ukiah, California. A report documenting Avelino's
physical and sexual assaults and emotional abuse of her children
was prepared on or about March 31, 1995. This report, which by law
was forwarded to the Sonoma County Sheriff for 11 investigation,
details continuous beatings of the children, forced sex with the
children and her own and children's fear of Avelino. An interview
with Teresa and the children in Ukiah by a cooperating Mendocino
County Sheriff deputy provided corroboration of the report, including
numerous accounts of child molestation, abuse and felony crimes.
On or about
April 24, 1995, Maria Teresa filed a declaration with the Superior
Court of California, County of Sonoma, which again detailed the
assaults and molestation of her children and also described that
she had been assaulted by Avelino when she sought to protect her
children, that she had suffered severe physical abuse at his hands,
that he had raped her and verbally abused her as well.
As a result
of her charges of child abuse against Avelino, Maria Teresa was
warned that she must keep Avelino away from their children or she
would lose custody. A temporary restraining order was issued against
Avelino by the Sonoma County Superior Court. Avelino returned to
harass and threaten Maria Teresa, telling her that if she went back
to court against him he would hurt her, her children and other family
members, and report her to the Immigration and Naturalization Service
Teresa returned home with her children in May or June, 1995, Avelino,
through mental and emotional abuse, physical intimidation and threats
to report Maria Teresa to the INS, forced himself back into residing
at Maria Teresa's home. Once in the home, he additionally threatened
Maria Teresa that if she called the police against him, Child Protective
Services (hereinafter "CPS") would take her children. In this way,
he coerced her and blackmailed her into attempting to live as a
In June, 1995,
CPS arranged to have the Defendant Sonoma County Sheriff's Department
remove the children from Maria Teresa's custody because she was
unable to protect the children from Avelino's violence and abuse.
Despite this apparent recognition of the danger Avelino presented
to Maria Teresa and the children, and their knowledge of his history
of sexual assaults and other violence toward Maria Teresa, the children,
and others, the Sheriff's Department did nothing to protect Maria
Teresa and made no arrest of Avelino for any of the crimes they
knew he had committed.
After the children
were taken, Maria Teresa essen tially became a prisoner in her own
home. Eventually, Plaintiff (Maria Teresa's mother) caine to Maria
Teresa's assistance from Mexico and another daughter joined them
as well. Together these women managed to evict Avelino from the
home in or about the beginning of September, 1995; however, Avelino's
aggressions continued during the next four months, and he repeatedly
stalked, threatened, and sexually assaulted Maria Teresa. Avelino
also began to openly boast that he would kill Maria Teresa and her
On or about
January 22, 1996, Maria Teresa returned to Family Court and obtained
a second restraining order against Avelino. The declaration filed
by Maria Teresa at this time details, among other things, Avelino's
ominous threats to the safety and life of Maria Teresa, his stalking
and threats to continue stalking her, his forcing her to masturbate
him after having stalked her down, and his threats to kill the Plaintiff
Sara Hernandez and other members of her family in Mexico. After
being served with the restraining order, Avelino's stalking, harassment,
and other criminal activity became worse, often occurring several
times a day. He would phone Maria Teresa, he would come to her home
and force his way into the home, he would tailgate her in his vehicle,
he blocked her from leaving places, he would make lurid threats
to her face, and he continued to threaten to kill Maria Teresa and
her mother Sara Hernandez.
All of this
conduct was reported to the Defendants in repeated calls and personal
contacts. Maria Teresa provided sworn statements, interviews, eyewitnesses,
and, later, a detailed, written chronology and other evidence, all
documenting Avelino's crimes against her, and her helplessness and
15, 1996, Avelino was present in court when the restraining order
was made permanent for a full year. However, Avelino continued to
ignore it with impunity. Emboldened, Avelino boasted to friends
and others in the community that the deputy sheriffs were on his
side, that the Sheriff protected him and not Maria Teresa. Avelino
would torment Maria Teresa with the same gibe.
Willful Failure to Protect Maria Teresa
For more than
a year prior to her murder on April 15, 1996, Maria Teresa was repeatedly
dismissed, ignored, and even ridiculed by employees and supervisors
of the Sheriff's Department and as a direct consequence, was placed
in an increasingly dangerous and vulnerable position of harm from
her estranged husband. Specifically, in just the last three months
of her life, between January 15, 1996, and April 15, 1996, Maria
Teresa made at least twenty different and distinct reports and pleas
for help and protection to the Sheriff's Department. Many of these
reports were witnessed by others. Some of these reports were supplemented
by witnesses who independently described Avelino's conduct, including
his threats to kill. These reports included descriptions of Avelino's
continuous stalking, which is a felony when a restraining order
is in effect or when the stalking is repeated. Often, Defendant
deputies responded to Maria Teresa's home, and were shown the restraining
order with its narrative of physical and sexual abuse, spoke with
her in person at the Defendant's substation, or spoke on the phone
with her. Despite the repeated proofs and warnings, the Defendants
reacted with dismissiveness, disdain, and obstruction. Not only
did various deputies, including Deputy Lopez, fail to fairly and
properly respond to these repeated reports of crime against Maria
Teresa, Defendant Lopez and other deputies actively undermined Maria
Teresa and left her worse than they found her, by, among other things,
coddling Avelino, failing to write reports, leaving the most critical
information out of reports, failing to collect evidence, actively
denigrating Maria Teresa's assertions, and even spreading the false
rumor that she was crazy and on medication for psychological problems.
Deputy Lopez' conduct as herein alleged was based on his discriminatory
intent and prejudicial attitude toward women as evidence by the
allegations as set forth above.
Lopez was the deputy who was frequently called upon to respond to
Maria Teresa's reports and requests for help, and he was the deputy
most 'familiar" with the case.
In view of what
was known of Deputy Lopez' personal history of conduct and attitudes
detrimental to and discriminatory toward women, the assignment of
Deputy Lopez to Maria Teresa's case, as well as other cases of violence
against women, is further evidence of the Sheriff's Department's
practice and custom of bias and discrimination against women and
denial of equal protection of the law to victims of domestic violence.
has a history known by the Sheriff's 28 Department of discrimination
and bias against women, and his attitude of discrimination resulted
in his conduct alleged herein which ultimately was a cause of Maria
Teresa's death. His animus against women has been demonstrated by
the fact that Deputy Lopez has been subject to two court orders
for domestic abuse and threatening behavior towards women. Defendant
Lopez' former wife filed a declaration in August, 1992, chronicling
the behaviors that caused her fears, including Defendant Lopez'
being verbally and emotionally abusive and "always needing to feel
in control of any and all situations." On July 6, 1992, Defendant
Lopez was physically violent in the family home with the result
that his wife moved from the home with the children for their protection.
In March, 1993, he and his wife stipulated to a restraining order
that they should stay 25 yards away from each other except when
transferring custody of the children.
In April, 1995,
Defendant Lopez' former domestic partner filed an application for
a restraining order naming Defendant Lopez as the person to be restrained.
The report states that Lopez made threats, including a threatening
telephone call to her at work and a death threat left on her car,
saying "You will die, bitch." She alleged she had separated from
him over a year earlier due, inter alia, to his "violent nature."
also harassed his former domestic partner by filing a false stolen
car report. In November, 1994, Defendant Lopez had signed a complaint
with the Santa Rosa Police Department alleging that "his" car had
been stolen. His domestic partner was actually the registered owner
of the car. She reported that he told her about making the report
and told her that, as a result, she would be pulled over at gunpoint.
In order to prevent this intentional humiliation and harassment,
she had to contact the police and show them the car registration
showing she was the registered owner, after which the file was closed.
In or about
March, 1996, one of Maria Teresa's calls to the Sheriff's Department
was tape recorded. She called to report Avelino's having telephoned
the apartment. The dispatcher contacted Defendant Lopez, who exasperatedly
complained that Maria Teresa had just been there to request a report
and that he can't file a report every time she calls. Lopez tells
the dispatcher that he will get to it after he finishes some other
things. His tone is contemptuous. Both Deputy Lopez' words and his
tone evidence the intentional discrimination alleged herein.
Teresa's death, Defendant Lopez continued to exhibit an animus against
women, particularly in the domestic violence context. In November,
1996, Cassandra Thomson reported violations of a restraining order
by her domestic partner. Deputy Lopez responded to the call and
told her that women lie about domestic violence and are the aggressors
more often than men. Deputy Lopez also complained to her that his
ex-wife had filed false court order violations against him. Deputy
Lopez made several biased misrepresentations in his written report,
refused to take important evidence of the restraining order violations,
refused to speak with eyewitnesses, and omitted from his report
the existence of key evidence and eyewitnesses and essential facts
of the case. Ms. Thomson had to submit a supplemental report to
correct the misrepresentations and omissions in Defendant Lopez'
written report, including the fact that the restrained person's
telephone number was logged on her caller ID box three times and
that he had demanded that she accompany him to San Jose.
In a television
interview, a Sonoma County Sheriff's Department spokesperson confirmed
that Defendant Lopez has been the subject of internal investigations
by the Sheriff's Department for misconduct, including misconduct
related to his own history of threats and aggressiveness towards
women. Plaintiffs are also informed and believe that he has a well-established
history of discriminatory and disrespectful conduct in his dealings
with the Latino community in the Sonoma Valley.
regularly ignored and dismissed Maria Teresa and regularly failed
to confront Avelino although he had more than enough evidence and
proof to arrest him on numerous occasions. Again, Deputy Lopez'
conduct resulted from intentional discrimination as evidenced by
his personal history of discriminatory attitudes and biases as alleged
informed and believe and based thereon allege that on two or more
occasions, police reports of Avelino's conduct were turned over
to the District Attorney. On each occasion, the District Attorney's
office failed and refused to properly process the reports, gather
requisite information and prosecute Avelino f or his crimes when
prosecution was warranted.
course of conduct towards Maria Teresa and Avelino affirmatively
worsened the situation and increased the danger to Maria Teresa.
Given a green light to continue with his crimes and threats against
Maria Teresa and her family, including the open threat to kill,
and emboldened by the apparent sympathy and "understanding" provided
to him by the individual deputies he encountered without incident
or arrest, Avelino's conduct escalated until April 15, 1996, when
he tracked down Maria Teresa and the Plaintiff Sara Hernandez at
a housecleaning job in the Town of Sonoma and proceeded to argue
with Maria Teresa and eventually shoot her in the head and shoot
Plaintiff Sara Hernandez as well before he turned the gun on himself
and committed suicide.
CAUSE OF ACTION
(Denial of Equal Protection-- 18 All Plaintiffs and All Defendants)
to and incorporate by reference the allegations of paragraphs 1
through 42 as though set forth in full herein.
At all relevant
times, by their policies, customs, practices, actions and the conduct
alleged in this Complaint, each of the Defendants intentionally
discriminated against women, and, in particular, women who are victims
of genderbased violence, and against Latinos.
at all relevant times herein, by their policies, customs, practices,
actions and the conduct alleged in this Complaint, each of the Defendants
denied equal protection of the law to victims of domestic violence.
As a direct and proximate result of the conduct set 4orth above,
the Plaintiffs were damaged as set forth in this Complaint.
pray for judgment against Defendants and each of them as follows:
- For general
damages according to proof;
- For special
damages according to proof;
- For reasonable
attorneys fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988;
- For costs
of suit; and
- For such
other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
29, 1997 SELTZER & CODY
Richard A. Seltzer
Attorney for Plaintiffs
FOR JURY TRIAL
demand a jury trial in this matter.
Dated: April 29, 1997
Richard A. Seltzer
Attorney for Plaintiffs
AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS, No. C-96-3658-DLJ
CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF ALAMEDA:
I am a citizen
of the United States. My business address is 180 Grand Avenue, Suite
1300, Oakland, California. I am employed in the County of Alameda,
where this mailing occurs. I am over the age of 18 years, and not
a party to the within cause. On the date set forth below, I served
the foregoing document(s) described as:
SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS
on the following
person(s) in this action by placing a true copy thereof enclosed
in a sealed envelope addressed as follows:
Michael D. Senneff,
SENNEFF, KELLY, KIMELMAN & BEACH
50 Old Courthouse Square
P.O. Box 3729
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
[ X ] (BY MAIL)
I am readily familiar with my firm's practice for collection and
processing of correspondence for mailing with the United States
Postal Service, towit, that correspondence will be deposited with
the United States Postal Services this same day in the ordinary
course of business. I sealed said envelope and placed it for collection
and mailing on April 30, 1997, following ordinary business practices.
[ ]BY PERSONAL
SERVICE) I caused such envelope(s) to be delivered by hand this
date to the offices of the addressee(s).
[ ](BY FEDERAL
EXPRESS) I caused such envelope to be delivered to Federal Express
for overnight courier service to the office(s) of the addressee(s).
[ ](BY FACSIMILE)
I caused such document to be processed via Facsimile, directed to
the above-listed party(ies) using their Facsimile number(s).
[ ](STATE) I
declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of
California that the above is true and correct.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United
States of America that the above is true and correct.
April 30, 1997,
at Oakland, California.
// Mary Back Ruiz