Geragos: State Is Financially Liable for Culver City Armory Murder

In his opening court statement Thursday, Attorney Mark Geragos said the State of California is financially liable for JoAnn Harris’ 2007 murder at the Culver City Armory.

The following article was written by Bill Hetherman of City News Service

 The State of California is financially liable for the murder of a National Guard recruit because a sergeant in the state militia spread news that the recruit had been impregnated by a recruiter, who killed the woman with a baseball bat, attorney Mark Garragos argued in a downtown Los Angeles court on Thursday.   

Sgt. Scott Ansman used the inside information from a fellow state employee to go on a relentless campaign against JoAnn Crystal Harris, who was bludgeoned to death at the National Guard Armory in Culver City in 2007, alleged lawyer Mark Geragos.

Geragos represents the brother and two sisters of the late recruit, who was pregnant, but not by Ansman.  

Ansman, who was married, was Harris' initial recruiter and the pair had sex one time, Geragos said, when another sergeant told Ansman that the recruit was pregnant, triggering the baseball-bat attack.    

"She's not going to destroy my life, I'm going to make sure she gets an abortion," Ansman said after being informed of the pregnancy, according to Geragos.     

But Deputy Attorney General David Adida, on behalf of the state, said his client has no liability for what Ansman did.

"What he did was far removed and outside the course and scope of his employment,'' Adida said.     

Ansman received his salary and benefits from the federal government, not the state, Adida said.

Geragos said Ansman easily lured [Harris] to the Armory because Guard members did not clue her in that Ansman had told them he wanted to get rid of her baby. Other soldiers had even reported their concerns to Culver City police.     

Gerald Bennett, Suzette Bennett and Deborah Bennett, Harris' three siblings, became the plaintiffs when their mother, Martha Harris, died in August, 2011. Martha Harris sued the state in October, 2008.     

The Bennetts maintain their sister's death could have been avoided if officials there investigated another sergeant's allegations that Ansman was plotting against Harris and her unborn child. Harris found out she was pregnant while undergoing a medical examination as part of her Army recruitment, according to the lawsuit. She later told her recruiter that Ansman was the father, although that turned out to be incorrect, Geragos told jurors.     

Before killing Harris with the baseball bat, Ansman used Internet information to unsuccessfully try and induce an abortion by putting Visine eye drops into her tea, Geragos said. Ansman called 911 to report Harris' death and was arrested that same day. The 15-year military veteran was a full-time supply sergeant at the armory.     

Ansman, now 38, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder  - one for the woman and one the fetus - and sentenced in September 2009 to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge H. Chester Horn. He is not scheduled to testify in the civil suit.

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