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Sergeant Sues California Army National Guard

Sgt. Erik Hein is suing following what he terms a "backlash" from the National Guard after testifying in the murder case of Joann Crystal Harris who was killed at the Culver City Armory in 2007.

A California Army National Guard sergeant has sued his employer, saying he was branded a "traitor" and retaliated against for testimony regarding the behavior of a colleague who was eventually convicted of the killing of a pregnant recruit.

Sgt. Erik Hein filed the lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Along with retaliation, his other allegations include intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Hein was a key witness in January in the trial of a wrongful death suit filed against the state by the family of murdered National Guard member Joann Crystal Harris. He told jurors that instead of being praised for his efforts to have Sgt. Scott Ansman's actions investigated before Harris died, he experienced a backlash within the National Guard.

Ansman beat 29-year-old Harris to death with a baseball bat on Aug. 24, 2007, on the gymnasium floor of the Culver City armory. Before killing Harris Ansman used Internet information to unsuccessfully try to induce an abortion by putting Visine eye drops into her tea, Hein said.

Ansman -- a married father of three children -- mistakenly believed Harris was pregnant with his baby.

"I've lost faith in the command and the system from that point on and I just felt my career took a nosedive after that," Hein testified during the January trial.

Deputy Attorney General David Adida represented the state of California during the wrongful death suit, which was settled in the middle of the trial.

Adida could not be immediately reached for comment on Hein's complaint.

In his lawsuit, Hein maintains that after he testified in the wrongful death and criminal cases against Ansman he "was targeted as being a traitor'' by the National Guard. He maintains he was denied promotions, given negative evaluations and that his requests for leaves and transfers were denied.

Attorney Mark Geragos -- representing three siblings of Harris -- said during trial of the wrongful death suit that Ansman easily lured Harris to the armory because Guard members never told her that Ansman had been outspoken about wanting to get rid of her baby.

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

The Bennetts maintained their sister's death could have been avoided if officials there investigated Hein's allegations that Ansman was plotting against Harris and her unborn child.

In his civil suit, Hein says he reported Ansman's threats against Harris to both his supervisors and to Culver City Police.

"[Hein] did everything he could to prevent [Harris'] foreseeable murder, but he couldn't," his suit states. "This caused emotional distress to [Hein], who was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.''

Harris found out she was pregnant while undergoing a medical examination as part of her recruitment, Geragos said. Harris later told her recruiter that Ansman was the father, although that turned out to be incorrect, Geragos said.

Hein said during the wrongful death case trial that he was still with the National Guard and was then assigned to San Diego.

Ansman, now 39, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder -- one for Harris and one for her fetus -- and was sentenced in September 2009 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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