Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Couple sue over alleged civil rights violations

NICE – A local couple are suing the City of Burlingame and several of that city's police officials over allegations of civil rights violations.

Dennis and Angela Ostini of Nice filed the case in U.S. District Court Feb. 16. It names the City of Burlingame, Police Chief Jack L. Van Etten, Officer Jarel Peters and Sgt. Jeff Downs.

The Ostinis are asking for $1.4 million in damages for an incident they say occurred in 2005, while they visited family in the city.

The couple themselves have law enforcement connections: Dennis Ostini is a Lake County Sheriff's sergeant. “He supervises Boat Patrol for us,” Sheriff Rod Mitchell said Friday.

The attorney for the Ostinis, who discussed the case with Bay Area news outlets over the last week, declined a request by this publication to interview her clients.

Angela Ostini told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that on July 10, 2005, she found out her brother, Samuel Giardina, had died unexpectedly. Her loud weeping caused neighbors to call the police to report a disturbance.

When they arrived, she told the Chronicle that Peters put his hand on her and kept telling her to calm down, and Ostini told him to remove his hand. Peters then reportedly shoved her into a chair. loudly berated her and threatened to have her taken for a mental evaluation.

Burlingame City Attorney Larry Anderson said Monday the city didn't have an official statement on the lawsuit.

“We tried to come to some resolution last year with Mrs. Ostini and weren't able to do so,” Anderson said.

Ananda Norris, Ostini's attorney, told Lake County News that Peters had lost a family member shortly before the confrontation with Ostini.

“The Burlingame Police Department was aware that Officer Peters was emotionally unstable and was unfit to carry out his duties as a police officer,” said Norris.

She added that Peters should have been able to have had a mourning period away from the “rigors of ordinary police work.”

“The Burlingame Police Department not only required him to be at work but asked him to go out on calls of distress involving potential acts of violence that were likely to trigger the debilitating emotions that would afflict any human being in a similar situation,” Norris said.

By doing so, said Norris, Burlingame Police put community members at risk.

Ostini and her brother were very close, Norris said. Giardina was nine years older than Ostini, and the last member of her immediate family. “They spoke daily and saw each other at least three days a week,” Norris said. “Angela and Sammy suffered the loss of both of their parents and helped each other to remember the good times they experienced as a family. Sammy was Angela's best friend and true confidant.”

Norris said Angela Ostini has been in a “state of arrested grief” since the July 2005 encounter. “She remains traumatized by Officer Peters' actions and the department's failure to resolve this matter fairly and swiftly has compounded her emotional distress,” Norris said.

Proceedings in the case aren't scheduled to begin until May, when a case management conference is on the calendar.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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