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Judge Awards Attorney's Fees to Riverside County for Defending Right Not to Pay Part of Dorner Award

Richard Heltebrake maintains in a lawsuit filed last April 29 that he deserves the money because his 911 call helped alert authorities to Dorner's whereabouts.

Richard Heltebrake says Christopher Dorner took his vehicle, telling him 'I don't want to hurt you, just get out and start walking and take your dog.'  Patch file photo by Guy McCarthy.
Richard Heltebrake says Christopher Dorner took his vehicle, telling him 'I don't want to hurt you, just get out and start walking and take your dog.' Patch file photo by Guy McCarthy.

A judge Monday awarded $35,000 in attorneys' fees to the county of Riverside for successfully arguing First Amendment grounds in opposing a camp ranger's efforts to obtain reward money stemming from former Los Angeles police Officer Christopher Dorner's revenge rampage.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White had previously dismissed the part of plaintiff Richard Heltebrake's case against the city of Riverside, saying she was not convinced that the municipality was contractually obligated to pay Heltebrake. She said the Riverside City Charter requires a written agreement approved by the mayor and City Council to substantiate such a claim.

Related:  Dorner Carjack Victim Near Big Bear: 'I'm No Hero, But I Earned the Reward'


Riverside police Officer Michael Crain, a Beaumont resident, was killed and one of his colleagues was injured while Dorner was a fugitive.

Dorner died Feb. 12, 2013, from a self-inflicted gunshot in a law enforcement standoff as a cabin burned down around him in the San Bernardino Mountains community of Angelus Oaks near Big Bear Lake. 

Heltebrake maintains in a lawsuit filed last April 29 that he deserves the money because his 911 call helped alert authorities to Dorner's whereabouts.    

In a related action Monday, White denied a motion by lawyers for the city of Irvine to dismiss Heltebrake's claims against that city. Lawyers for Irvine maintained the lawsuit infringed upon the exercise of free speech involving an issue of public interest, the same legal grounds through which attorneys for the city of Los Angeles and the county of Riverside successfully obtained dismissal of all claims against those entities.     However, White said that in Irvine's case, the City Council's adoption of a resolution approving a contribution to the reward fund occurred a month after Dorner died. She said the issue was no longer a matter of public interest as was the case with the other claims.

"It's a question of timing," White said.

Heltebrake's attorney, Gordon Stuart, said he was pleased with today's ruling, which leaves the city of Irvine as the only government entity still in the case. However, Heltebrake is appealing the dismissal of the parts of the case against the cities of Los Angeles and Riverside, as well as Riverside County.

Dorner, who lived with his mother in La Palma, promised warfare on LAPD officers and their families for what he believed was his unjustified firing. The 33-year-old Navy reserve officer killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during his nearly one-week run from authorities.


– City News Service.

jerryflores March 12, 2014 at 03:30 AM
Hey Dude, press 1 for English, you get NOTHING!!!Put it to rest already!
Serious Sam March 12, 2014 at 03:42 AM
This person should have been given A SHARE of the rewards offered. ........ Even if his reasonable claim was rejected he should not have to pay any attorney costs Riverside County incurred to get out of paying him. ........ And besides that if it was so obvious that the county should not have to pay, then how could it be reasonable to charge $35,000 to defeat the claim.
Joseph Morabito March 12, 2014 at 10:01 AM
Sam, tell me again why the tax payers should be on the hook when people bring frivolous lawsuits against us? Imagine the deluge that is waiting for your to take over when it comes to our purse strings. The man didn't qualify for any rewards, he simply was greedy and that isn't what the reward was designed for. It wasn't intended to be compensation for Dorner's victims, it was designed to get a person with inside info to 'spill the beans' and get him caught. How people don't grasp that only tells me how lost you are.
SA March 14, 2014 at 04:52 PM
@Sam are you insane? … No he should not be awarded anything as anyone can call 911 and report anything at any time … He should be liable from the attorney fees as he filed a litigious action … Liberals I do not understand y’all’s thinking …

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