ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City pays family of "criminal libel" figure to settle brutality suit.
The family of Juan Mata — who is appealing his August conviction on the rare charge of criminal libel, along with stalking and harassment — has been paid $75,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging police brutality by five Farmington police officers, the Farmington Daily Times is reporting on its Web site.
The 32-year-old Mata told the paper the money paid by the city will be split among himself, Gregoria Mora, Francisco Mata and Rene Barraza-Mata, all of who claimed they were battered on Nov. 29, 2002, by five police officers — Mike Briseno, Kenneth Raybon, David Monfils, Wilson Charley and Jerry Vigil.
Farmington City Attorney Jay Burnham confirmed the settlement but denied any culpability on the city’s part.
"The making of such an offer should not be construed to mean that the city felt that its officers had done anything wrong," Burnham told the Daily Times. "The city specifically denies that the plaintiffs were mistreated or harmed in any way."
Burnham told the paper that the city had "better uses" for taxpayer money than to continue the lawsuit.
Juan Mata is one of only a handful of people in New Mexico history to be charged with criminal libel after he picketed Farmington police headquarters carrying a sign that read "Briseno is a dirty cop," according to a story in August by The Associated Press.
In August, Mata — who also was charged with stalking and harassment — was fined $114 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service by Farmington Magistrate William Vincent, who also sentenced Mata to 360 days in jail but suspended the sentence.
He is appealing that sentence in state District Court, and the case is scheduled to go to trial April 17 before Chief District Judge William Birdsall, the Daily Times reported.