A man who was choked by an off-duty Los Angeles firefighter with the help of friends in Chatsworth over three years ago has reportedly won a $7.4-million settlement in connection with the attack.
Samuel Chang was handing out Halloween candy in the neighborhood near his grandmother’s home when he was attacked by five individuals in 2015.
Based on the video evidence presented in court, Eric Carpenter, a member of the L.A. Fire Department, placed Chang in a chokehold for six minutes, with the victim gasping for air before he finally went limp.
Court documents revealed that Carpenter and his friends confronted Chang after some mothers asked him to stop handing out Halloween candy to children but still continued to do so.
Using his iPhone, Chang filmed the men following him and repeatedly accusing him of trying to give “drug-laced candy” to children.
A bystander was able to record the group as they tackled Chang to the ground. In the clip, Carpenter is seen wrapping his arm around Chang’s throat while the others pinned him down.
Chang, then a 23-year-old physical therapy student, was hospitalized for weeks and sustained multiple injuries including severe head trauma and kidney failure.
Before the judge handed out the sentence, the lead detective on the case expressed his objections to this and asked the judge to review the videos.
David Ring, the lawyer who defended Chang, has since accused District Attorney Jackie Lacey of giving Carpenter preferential treatment.
Michael Goldstein, Carpenter’s lawyer, reportedly served as Lacey’s campaign finance director when she was elected in 2012. According to campaign finance records, the lawyer donated thousands of dollars to Lacey’s political accounts over the years.
Both Goldstein and Lacey’s office have denied that their connections impacted Carpenter’s plea deal.
Ring also said his client suffered lifelong injuries from the attack that almost killed him.
“Samuel was brutally beaten by these thugs,” Ring was quoted as saying. “The civil settlement provides him with some justice for what he endured. Yet we remain incredibly disappointed that the district attorney’s office failed to hold the defendants accountable for this horrific attack.”
According to Chang, he was forced to delay his graduate studies for almost a year. He said he still suffers from chronic headaches and continues to have trouble reading and processing information due to his injuries.
In 2017, Chang filed charges against his attackers for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence in Los Angeles County Superior Court. While five men were named in the lawsuit, only three of them were criminally charged.
Carpenter was allowed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 135 days of community service instead of serving the maximum seven-year prison sentence, the L.A. Times reports.
Michael Anthony Vitar, another L.A. firefighter, and Thomas Molnar, one of Carpenter’s neighbors, both pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery charges. They also received three years’ probation and 90 days of community service.
While Carpenter and Vitar served a six-month unpaid suspension after the assault, both of them remained on the city’s payrolls.
The settlement, which does not acknowledge any wrongdoing from the accused, had insurers agreeing to pay $2.1 million on behalf of Molnar and $1.5 million each on behalf of Carpenter and Vitar. Insurers will also be paying $1.3 million on behalf of Michael Cirlin and $1 million on behalf of Eugene Elbert, both who were also named in the lawsuit.