$1M lawsuit against former deputy in jeopardy

Posted at 3:58 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 20:43:54-04

Another million-dollar lawsuit involving the Kern County Sheriff's Department was settled Monday, but the deal could be voided soon because of a breach in the agreement.

The case involved former deputy Gabriel Lopez, who was arrested in 2013 after he sexually assaulted two women. He is currently serving a two year prison sentence for the crimes. The settlement is for the civil case filed against Lopez.

Neil Gehlawat, the plaintiff's attorney, announced the settlement in a press release and conducted a phone interview with 23ABC because he said the settlement featured a clause that said his firm could not conduct a news conference.

23ABC also spoke with Theresa A. Goldner, county counsel for the Kern County Counsel, who says that Gehlawat and his firm, Chain Cohn & Stiles, have violated the settlement terms. She says that Chain Cohn & Stiles had agreed to not release any information about the settlement and that it is the county's job to release the press release. According to Goldner, the press release violated the agreement, as did the phone interview. 

Chain Cohn & Stiles has responded:

“We believe the settlement is still valid, and is not in jeopardy. It is against public policy to prevent the disclosure of settlement with a public entity, and flies in the face of transparency.”

Sheriff Youngblood told 23ABC that he plans to comment on the settlement on Tuesday.

Gehlawat says that shortly after the sexual assault in 2013, the County of Kern and sheriff's officials visited the victim and offered her $10,000 to settle the case.

While Gehlawat's client did not take the deal, the other victim accepted $5,000 to settle the case.

Now it remains to be seen if his client will receive the $1 million settlement. 

23ABC will keep you up to date as information becomes available.