A federal court hearing scheduled for this morning could determine the fate of a $10 million federal lawsuit brought by a Pasadena man who was mistaken for a bank robber and shot in the face by an FBI agent more than three years ago.
At issue is whether the judge will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against Special Agent Christopher Braga and his supervisor, Henry F. Hanburger.
Joseph C. Schultz, now 23, was shot in the face March 1, 2002, shattering his jaw, after FBI agents searching for a bank robber stopped the car being driven by Kristen M. Harkum of Pasadena, then 16. Harkum, Schultz's former girlfriend, was not wounded in the shooting, but she also has filed a $10 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, arguing that her constitutional rights were violated. Schultz's and Harkum's lawsuits are being considered jointly today.
Lawyers for Braga and Hanburger said in court papers that the agents acted reasonably under the circumstances and are protected by qualified immunity bestowed on law enforcement.
Even if the judge throws out Harkum's suit against the agents, she could still pursue her separate federal torts claim against the FBI. Schultz decided not to file a similar claim against the law enforcement agency.
In their lawsuits, filed in 2003, Schultz and Harkum alleged that the agents violated the FBI's standard policies. The lawsuit named as defendants Braga, Hanburger and another supervisor, Lawrence S. Brosnan.
U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has already thrown out all claims against Brosnan and limited the claims brought against Braga and Hanburger.
If the agents lose in their effort to dismiss the case, they have the unusual right to appeal the case immediately. Attorneys said if that happens, it's likely that the scheduled June 6 trial date will be delayed.