TAMPA - A splashy law enforcement takedown of purported Latin King gang members nearly seven years ago is costing the city and county nearly $500,000 in combined legal settlements.
Just weeks after Tampa agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit for $260,000, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office has agreed to pay $215,000 to ten people who were arrested during an August 2006 raid at the Caribbean American Club, according to Kimberly Kohn, attorney for the plaintiffs.
The sheriff's settlement amounts range from $5,000 to $66,500 for each plaintiff.
"I definitely think it's a good resolution for our clients and we like to believe that law enforcement has learned their lesson and that something like this will never happen again," Kohn said.
On Aug. 20, 2006, law enforcement announced they had raided a meeting of the gang's statewide leaders, who they said had gathered at the Caribbean American Club to plan crimes. More than 50 suspected gang members found themselves handcuffed, jailed and charged with racketeering and other crimes. They faced potential prison terms of 30 years to life.
Authorities bragged they had sprung a trap that had decimated the Latin Kings gang just as it was moving into a new phase of power in the Tampa area.
But as the cases worked their way through the courts, many came apart.
Nearly half of the suspects walked free after a judge issued a scathing ruling accusing detectives of "outrageous" misconduct in their use of an informant.
Rather than increasing their power, it turned out the Latin Kings hadn't been active in the area. The suspects, the judge concluded, had come together only after being threatened and intimidated by the informant.
A dozen former suspects sued the FBI, Tampa Police and the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office in 2010. The following year, the case against the FBI was dismissed.
With the settlement from the sheriff's office, the case is over.
"All parties/litigants mutually agreed that after reviewing the totality of all the facts, it was in the best interest of all parties to settle the case as it stands," sheriff's office spokesman Larry McKinnon said Tuesday.
Kohn said that although law enforcement admitted no wrongdoing, she thinks the amount of the settlements shows officials know they were wrong.
"I think the fact that there was a settlement and the fact that there are different amounts in the settlement, because each client was impacted differently, speaks to us that there is recognition that mistakes were made," she said.