THE NIGHTMARE RETURNS!
As faithful Outrage readers will recall, about two years ago we told you about a case that was so extraordinary that even the hardened cynics here at the Outrage were amazed. But, even knowing what we do about the insanity that is the American legal system, we were sure the case would never see the light of day. Boy, were we wrong - it's in trial right now! Although this case is one of the most Outrageous we have ever encountered, it does provide the perfect opportunity to begin our Take Action program. (See below for more information.)
Like most disasters, authorities had full warning of the events to come, and chose to ignore the warnings. On October 23, 1993 two men were stopped by police. They had in their car:
- Four semi-automatic pistols, two of which were fully loaded.
- Two AK-47 assault rifles
- Over 2,600 rounds of ammunition
- Six smoke grenades
- Two homemade explosives
- Two bulletproof vests
- One gas mask with filter
- Gloves, hair wigs, 3 ski masks, two cans of hair spray
- 3 different California license plates
- Two scanners with ear pieces
- One stop watch
A few years later, on the morning of February 28, 1997, the same two men, Emil Matasareanu and Larry Phillips, dressed in full body armor,
threw a cache of automatic assault weapons in the trunk of their car, and went to rob a bank. (This was probably their third bank robbery.)
As they entered the Bank of America in North Hollywood they ordered everyone to drop to the floor. They hit one man in the head with a rifle
butt because he couldn't keep his baby quiet. The robbers didn't order the Plexiglas doors behind the counter to be opened; they simply
obliterated them with automatic weapons fire. They left the bank with $300,000 in cash.
Police officers responded immediately. And then came a shoot-out that made the OK Corral look like a Teddy Bear Tea Party. Matasareanu and
Phillips shot 3 police officers in the first five minutes, and kept shooting for 35 more minutes, firing more than 1,100 armor piercing
bullets from AK-47 and SKS assault rifles. At first the police did not even shoot back, as they were afraid of drawing fire to civilians that
were busy diving for cover.
As the robbers exhausted their ammunition they calmly reached into the trunk of their car, pulled out more fully loaded weapons, and began
firing again. The cops were so outgunned by the criminals that some of the officers ran into a nearby gun store and grabbed weapons off the
shelves to better defend themselves. 17 people, including 11 police and 6 civilians, were shot or otherwise injured in the melee. One of the
innocent bystanders was shot in the head by Matasareanu, who was trying to use the victim's car in a getaway. Over 200 police officers
participated in the battle.
One of the robbers, Phillips, was shot 11 times before he turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide. The other robber, Matasareanu,
had been shot 29 times by the time he was handcuffed and taken into custody. (But remember, he was wearing full body armor, so not all of
those bullets injured him.)
Imagine a scene of utter chaos: thousands of pieces of spent ammo lying on the ground, smoke from the automatic gunfire still wafting in the
air, sirens wailing, media helicopters buzzing overhead, dazed onlookers - a preview of Dante's Inferno.
As ambulances arrived on the scene; one ambulance crew found 3 severely injured people:
- Police officer Conrado Torrez, who had been shot in the neck by one of
- William Maar, the bystander who had been shot in the head by
over Matasaranu, called for another ambulance for the robber. In fact, Futrell called for an ambulance 3 times. One of the ambulances was
waved away by another police officer, who thought that the scene was still potentially dangerous. It took more than 45 minutes after the
shooting stopped for the chaos to subside. By the time an ambulance arrived to treat Matasareanu, justice had been served - he had bled to
In a sane country, this would be the end of the story: the two bank robbers had met their rightful fate, the police officers had done their
job. The injured would try to put their lives back together. Emil Matasareanu's family would disown him, and try to hide from the shame of
their association with a cold-blooded killer.
But, of course, as America enters the 21st century it is anything but a sane place; it's a place where reason is turned on its head; criminals
are seen as victims, and heroes as criminals. Which means that justice is turned upside down, and Matasareanu and his family become victims.
And, like any victim, they turn to the courts to sue; in this case, the city of Los Angeles, as well as some of the police officers involved in
John Futrell is one of the officers being sued. Futrell served in Vietnam and is a 27-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Force who was
awarded the Police Meritorious Medal for his bravery in the events described above. Married, with 3 daughters. In any sane society,
Futrell would be looking forward to a peaceful and prosperous retirement. But in the new America, Futrell is on trial. Perhaps even
worse, he was fired from the police force, despite the fact than an internal investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Futrell has already accumulated $100,000+ in legal bills defending himself from this Outrageous suit. Why, you might ask, is the City of
Los Angeles, or the police union, not defending Futrell? The reasons are complicated, and have much to do with the cesspool that is Los Angeles.
According to insiders, the city has handled the entire case in its usual incompetent fashion. (Remember, this is the same city that failed to
get a conviction against OJ, despite the blood dripping off his hands.) Futrell thought, quite correctly, that to be defended competently he
needed to mount his own defense.
This scam, like so many others, is about punitive damages. There are basically two types of damages:
Compensatory Damages: This is a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the LAPD willfully denied the bank robber proper medical care. As the name implies, compensatory damages are designed to compensate those left behind. We're sure that Matasareanu - the man who shot an innocent bystander in the head - was a wonderful husband and father. If he had lived, his family would probably be greatly relieved that Matasareanu was destined to be in prison for a long, long time.
Punitive Damages: What Yagman is really betting on is that in the current atmosphere of LA, influenced by the Ramparts scandal, the jury,
mostly minorities, will let the well-publicized actions of some bad LA cops influence their judgment, and that they will send an anti-cop
message to the LA powers that be. Even without awarding any compensatory damages, the jury could award unlimited punitive damages to
punish the City (and police officers such as Futrell). One of the great problems with the current American legal system is that plaintiffs, and
their attorneys, receive any punitive damages awarded, even though, by definition, they are separately compensated for any injury they have
What does Yagman hope to gain? Let's say that the family actually wins a judgment - won't all the victims sue the family for injuries resulting
from Matasareanu's shooting spree? Hopefully so, but Yagman doesn't care - he keeps his jackpot fee regardless of whether the family ultimately
makes any money out of this speculation in the legal system. (And that's what the court system has really become; a betting salon with
huge payoffs on long-shot bets.)
Of course, the case would normally be appealed, but here again Yagman is betting that, given all their other legal problems, LA will eventually
make a settlement rather than appeal.
WHO'S TO BLAME
Let's take a look at the list of sorry characters in this drama:
Stephen Yagman - The piece of human refuse, otherwise known as the plaintiff's lawyer, that actually brought the case. Yagman has made a
career of suing the city, and living off the taxpayer-funded settlements. This guy is such a low-life that he has managed to be suspended from practice twice, most recently in October of 1998. To be suspended from the legal profession is the moral equivalent of being ostracized by child molesters. Yagman undoubtedly contacted the family and solicited this case - his deal with them probably allows him to keep 45-50% of any recovery, plus expenses.
Judge Christina Scheider - A Clinton appointee who is bending over backward to help the plaintiff's win big. Not only did she allow the
case to go to trial, instead of dismissing it, but she granted continuances to enable the case to go to trial after Yagman's suspension ceased, and he was allowed to practice again.
The Los Angles County Police Department - Has screwed up so many times, in so many different ways, that we've lost count. Currently embroiled in the Ramparts Scandal, the corruption and incompetence of the LAPD has created an environment where suspicion is everywhere, and even good cops are suspected of evil deeds. Many of the department's current problems are probably the result of hiring unqualified police officers during a hiring spree seven or eight years ago.
City of Los Angeles - Through its legal incompetence (remember OJ?) the city has managed to take a case that should have been a bad joke and
given the plaintiff's a real chance of success.
TAKE ACTION - WHAT YOU CAN DO
As we mentioned in the introduction, we're going to start taking action. Over the years, many of our faithful readers have expressed a desire to do more than just read about Outrage - they want to do something about the Outrages we describe. Here are some suggestions:
Write the Judge
Tell her you're Outraged that the court system is even considering a case like this. If you think she's a disgrace to an already disgraced legal profession, let her know. Feel free to mention that you read about the case in The Outrage. Or just print this Outrage, add your own comments, and send to:
Judge Christina Snyder
US District Court for the Central District of California
312 Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Judge Snyder's Deputy Clerk is Maynor Galvez. He can be reached at (213) 894-3433.
Call the Lawyer
The lawyer (aka sleazebag) who brought this case can be reached at:
Yagman & Yagman & Reichmann
723 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291
Phone: (310) 452-3200
Your tax dollars pay for his lovely lifestyle.
Help Defend Futrell
Futrell's defense is being aided by a group called the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. These are good people that we'll vouch for; they're
a non-profit whose entire reason for being is to defend police officers in Outrageous situations such as these.
Or send a check, made payable to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, to:
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund
Federal Bar Building
1815 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
HELP US GATHER INFORMATION
We'd like to get the judge's phone number and email address, as well as the same for Attorney Yagman and anyone else involved in this quagmire.
Send the info to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it here.
Let's forget about the law: what moral responsibility, if any, does the government have to provide medical care to men who have just robbed a bank and shot or otherwise injured 17 people?
For more stories about this case see the following:
Botched L.A bank heist turns into bloody shootout
Family of robber killed in L.A. shootout sues
And to show that there's no limit on human stupidity, we're even giving you a link to a pro-Matasareanu web site! The Net enables everyone to
voice an opinion, and if you look at this site you'll wonder if that's really such a good thing.
The author says "I have nothing but respect for both Mr. Phillips and Mr. Matasareanu. I feel that what they did took a tremendous amount of courage, conviction, determination, and honor. These pages are my best attempt to honor their memories."
He even provides a step-by-step critique of the robbery. This person can vote and sit on a jury - is it any wonder that democracy is in trouble?
I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his
-- Zsa Zsa Gabor
© Copyright 1996-98, The Outrage is produced by Athens New Media. All rights reserved.