Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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San Bernardino County Pays Beaten Suspected Horse Thief $650,000 In Settlement

A suspected horse thief becomes USD $650,000 richer, after the San Bernardino County in California agreed to pay him in what legal experts said was a rare out of court settlement. 

The agreement stemmed from the beating of Francis Jared Pusok by 10 deputies of the San Bernardino County Sheriff last April 9.  Pusok had long been a subject of a theft investigation.  When the deputies tried to serve him a search warrant, Pusok took off, triggering a police chase.  The suspect stole a horse, but was eventually caught by police.  A local news helicopter crew captured the encounter, showing Pusok being punched and kicked by the deputies even after his surrender.   For Sheriff John McMahon, the deputies' actions appeared "excessive."

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But what stunned the legal experts was the speed at which the settlement had been reached. 

The County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement during a private session last Tuesday. Pusok and his attorneys signed the settlement on Friday.  The settlement comes at a time when law enforcement officers have been a subject of nationwide scrutiny amid cases of use of excessive force by police.

For Charles Rose, a professor for excellence in trial advocacy at Stetson University's College of Law Florida, settlements of this nature usually take years before getting resolved and approved.

"Civil cases normally take an extended period of time with a great deal of argument, not only over liability, but also damages," Rose said.   

"Not even two weeks, and you've got a $650,000 settlement. I would go so far as to say it is almost unheard of."

Rose said another thing that made the case all the more interesting was that both parties appeared to be too eager to settle.  The incident had clearly placed San Bernardino County in the spotlight of a heated and seemingly never-ending debate on police brutality.

"It's very clear that law enforcement used excessive force," Rose said. "From the county's perspective, (they) want to make it go away and get it out of the news," Rose added.

Meanwhile, Pusok who lives with his girlfriend in his mother's house, had been in and out of jail.  The settlement money could help Pusok with his daily living expenses and his criminal defense.

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