$60M lawsuit filed in 'Witch Hunt'-era case

Posted at 1:19 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 20:30:52-04

A man who took a plea deal during Kern County's infamous "Witch Hunt" era in the 1980s has now filed a federal civil lawsuit against several county agencies for $60 million.

Gerardo Gonzales filed the paperwork in federal court on March 16. In the suit, Gonzales alleges misconduct by more than 40 different people and agencies, including the FBI, Kern County District Attorney's Office, and the Kern County Sheriff's Department.

Gonzales has been trying to clear his name for more than 30 years after he pleaded no contest to lewd or lascivious acts with a child, suspected of sexually assaulting a neighborhood girl.

Gonzales took the plea because it allowed him to regain custody of his two children and, if he had been convicted of the original charges, he faced 900 years in prison -- but there was a catch: He would have to register as a sex offender every year. He's still listed on the Megan's Law website to this day.

RELATED: Gerardo Gonzales, accused of child molestation in 1984, looking to clear his name

He made the plea in 1987, following his arrest in 1984. It came during a time of unprecedented arrests and convictions in child sex abuses in Kern County. Many of those convictions have since been overturned, the subject of a documentary narrated by Sean Penn called "Witch Hunt."

A representative for Kern County Counsel, who represents Kern County on legal matters, said the department has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

SPECIAL REPORT: A look back: Kern County's 'Witch Hunt'; falsely accused man still fighting to clear his name