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Magana civil trial put off.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

A federal magistrate on Tuesday postponed until November the trial of five lawsuits stemming from sexual assaults by former Eugene police officer Roger Eugene Magana, who is serving 94 years in prison.

Judge Tom Coffin ruled that the five lawsuits be tried together on Nov. 7, instead of in two separate trials as previously planned.

The decision deletes an earlier trial date in July.

The later date means that the cases will be tried in the new federal courthouse, scheduled for completion in October. The courthouse will feature more seating, state-of-the-art technology and better accommodations for the jury, Coffin said.

So far, the city has paid $1.75 million to four women who sued for civil rights violations stemming from the criminal conduct of Magana, who was convicted in July 2004 of rape, kidnapping, sodomy and sexual assault.

In the unsettled cases, the women allege that the city failed to fully investigate allegations of misconduct against police officers, that it did not properly train officers how to handle complaints of sexual misconduct against fellow officers and that the department did not have clear guidelines about what to do in such cases.

Lawyers for the city have described Magana as a rogue police officer who took pains to cover up his activities. They have argued that police managers had no knowledge of Magana's illegal conduct and therefore there could be no deliberate indifference by the managers that allowed his crimes to continue.

Magana was fired in September 2003 after an internal investigation led to charges that he raped, kidnapped and otherwise abused at least 13 women over a five-year period.

In a crucial decision in March, Coffin described how acting police Chief Thad Buchanan's decision not to investigate Magana after a June 2001 complaint from a woman the officer solicited while on duty allowed more than a dozen additional reports of sexual misconduct to go undetected.

The city has paid another $203,000 to settle three lawsuits involving former officer Juan Francisco Lara's convictions for official misconduct, coercion and harassment.
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Title Annotation:Courts; Five women's suits against the city will be tried together at the new courthouse
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 3, 2006
Words:344
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