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The Public Eye: Man with crime-related injury wins settlement from Placer

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 12:50 pm

Who says crime doesn't pay? Probably not Sergey Pautov.

He stole seven Scratchers lottery tickets from a Rocklin mini-mart on May 29, 2011. He didn't hit the jackpot with the tickets, but he tapped Placer County's till for $825,000 because an off-duty sheriff's sergeant shot him three times in the posterior as he tried to flee.

In a federal civil rights lawsuit, Pautov sought money to compensate him for damages to his body and psyche, as well as "lost earnings" and "loss of earning capacity."

Pautov's employment prospects were not that great before he was shot. Although he is only 23, he has compiled a record of arrests and convictions going back to his juvenile days. In fact, while the Placer County criminal case was pending, he was being prosecuted in Sacramento County for three other lottery ticket thefts at gas station mini marts. He pleaded no contest to one of them a year ago and was sentenced to four months in jail as part of five years on probation.

In connection with the Rocklin caper, Pautov pleaded no contest to burglary and trying to evade police by driving in a lane where traffic was going in the opposite direction. The latter conviction is reminiscent of one he incurred in 2007 for driving recklessly to evade a peace officer in Sacramento.

Pautov, of Rancho Cordova, was sentenced March 27 in Placer Superior Court for the Rocklin theft, given nine months in jail as part of three years on probation.

Two months later, Pautov sued Placer County and the shooter, Sgt. Vaness Bogardus, in Sacramento federal court, claiming he was the victim of unconstitutional excessive force when Bogardus plugged him three times in his rear end.

Even before Pautov's complaint could be served on the defendants, the county agreed to pay him $825,000 to settle the suit. It was dropped last month.

Pautov could not be located. His attorney, Jeffrey Kravitz, declined to comment.

In August 2011, a year before the civil settlement, the Placer County District Attorney's Office announced its conclusion that Bogardus, who's still with the Sheriff's Department, did not commit a crime.

Three county agencies were queried regarding the apparent dichotomy between the DA's finding of no wrongdoing on the part of Bogardus and the amount of money the county paid Pautov.

The District Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Department kicked the question to the county counsel's office.

"The case presented a risk of a verdict against the county at trial, so the county made a business decision to settle without an admission of liability," said Deputy County Counsel David Huskey, who handled the matter. He also pointed out that, in the event of a jury award to Pautov, no matter how small, the county would be on the hook for his attorneys' fees.

The district attorney's announcement said Bogardus, 41, was driving to his Roseville home but knew of the search for Pautov by Rocklin and Roseville police. When he spotted the fugitive in a park, the sergeant confronted Pautov with his service weapon drawn and identified himself as a sheriff's officer, it said.

Six times Bogardus ordered Pautov to "get on the ground," but he turned and ran, hopped onto a wall and was trying to scramble over into the yard of a private residence, according to the announcement. Fearing for the safety of the neighborhood's residents, the announcement said, Bogardus fired three times, hitting Pautov twice in the left buttock and once in the right hip.

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