2 men wrongfully jailed receive $1.5M settlement

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council signed off Tuesday on a $1.475 million settlement of a wrongful arrest lawsuit brought by two local men who were incarcerated for seven months under a controversial gang law.

Aaron Harvey and local rapper Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan were among 15 people arrested over a two-month period in 2014 for alleged conspiracy to participate in gang activities in southeastern San Diego. Both men were ultimately cleared of all charges and will each receive $737,500.

Under a 2000 state law, it is a felony to promote, assist or benefit criminal gang activity. The law has drawn significant opposition from those who say it casts a wide and unconstitutional net and unfairly targets young men of color. Supporters claim it is an effective tool against gang violence.

The spate of 15 arrests in 2014 dated back to nine shootings in 2013 and 2014 involving Lincoln Park gang members.

Harvey, now 31, and Duncan, now 38, were not accused of any violent act, but were still facing life in prison for allegedly being associates of those who committed the shootings.

The men repeatedly denied any involvement with the gang and were allegedly linked to the cases through social media posts, music lyrics and tattoos.

Around three years ago, Duncan and Harvey filed a civil suit for emotional damages they suffered while in jail, claiming they were wrongfully incarcerated and San Diego police violated their First Amendment rights. In March 2015, a San Diego Superior Court judge disagreed with the use of the gang law in their cases and dismissed the charges against them.

The settlement was approved 8-0 — Councilwoman Vivian Moreno was absent — without comment. The council had tentatively approved the settlement on December 10 in closed session on a 5-3 vote with one abstention.

The money will be paid from the city’s Public Liability Fund.

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