By BILL HETHERMAN
A Los Angeles Police Department captain who complained that management ignored her requests for the entire department to be informed that a widely distributed photo of a topless woman resembling her was in fact not her image was awarded $4 million Friday by a jury.
The amount awarded to Capt. Lillian Carranza was half of what her attorney, Gregory W. Smith, had recommended during final arguments to the Los Angeles Superior Court panel on Thursday. Carranza maintained in her harassment suit that her emotional fallout from the photo caused her cardiologist to double her blood pressure medication to ease her anxiety.
Deliberating for less than a day in total, the panel awarded Carranza $2.5 million for her future pain and suffering and $1.5 million for her past emotional distress.
Carranza, a 33-year LAPD veteran, alleged in her suit filed in January 2019 that the department did not do enough to prevent the emotional distress she said she continues to suffer since being told about the photo in late 2018, including the LAPD’s denial of her request that a department-wide statement be put out confirming that she was not the person in the photo.
Smith said Chief Michel Moore acknowledged in his own trial testimony that the intent of the photo’s distribution was to cause her injury.
“But he does nothing,” Smith told jurors.
Moore said he refrained from putting out a notice to everyone in the LAPD that the photo was not Carranza because it would have increased her embarrassment by making the existence of the image even more widely known. But Smith argued it was unlikely the captain would be injured by a statement clearing her name and telling officers that such conduct was inappropriate.
Smith said that although an Internal Affairs probe was conducted, the detective assigned, Stacey Gray, focused only on who was the source of the photo. He said Carranza was not kept up to date on what might be being done about her concerns and that she didn’t even get a call from anyone when she was hospitalized on Christmas Eve 2018 because of her stress.
“Nobody checked in to see how she was doing and this caused tremendous stress,” Smith told the panel.
While Carranza had some stress in her life before the photo surfaced, her psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Jacks, determined that her current condition, which includes thinking about suicide without being close to taking her own life, is 100% attributable to the circulated image, Smith argued.
“This will never end for her,” according to Smith.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Mark Waterman told jurors that no one in Carranza’s workplace expressed any sexual hostility to her about the photo and that the only person who showed it to her was Smith, who Waterman said sent the image to the captain when she was vacationing in Puerto Vallarta in November 2018.
“It is undisputed that (Carranza) did not see or have knowledge that the subject photo was in her immediate workplace, that no one shared the subject photo with her in her immediate workplace and that she was not directly subjected to any harassing conduct — not even gawking — in her workplace,” Waterman wrote in his pretrial court papers.
“She has presented no evidence that her direct work environment was permeated by abusive sexual harassment.”