MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County has paid $50,000 to a former assistant district attorney injured in a workplace fight with a colleague in 2010.
The board of supervisors voted in March to pay a settlement to Paul Sequeira, who had filed a $300,000 claim with the county after he was struck in the face by senior deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett during a heated argument that occurred as the two high-ranking prosecutors were backing opposing candidates in a polarizing race for district attorney.
Sequeira says Jewett punched him without warning, causing a traumatic cataract injury that required surgery in his right eye. Jewett contends that Sequeira was the aggressor who leaned in to make first physical contact and that he struck him in self-defense.
"I think if (the county) thought it was self-defense, they wouldn't have settled with me," said Sequeira, who is suing Jewett over the fight in Contra Costa County Superior Court.
"It is highly presumptuous of Mr. Sequeira to speak on behalf of the county and, since the county has never consulted with me about that settlement, I feel certain there were considerations in that settlement beyond who was defending themselves from whom," Jewett said.
Sequeira was among a number of District Attorney's Office managers who opposed District Attorney Mark Peterson's candidacy and were subsequently demoted by Peterson once he took office. Jewett was among Peterson's supporters who were
One of those former managers, deputy District Attorney David Brown, is suing the county, Peterson and two of Peterson's current administrators on allegations that he was harassed and retaliated against for supporting Peterson's opponent.
Sequeira's settlement makes known that he can't follow Brown's lead. It reads that the released parties "expressly deny" any wrongdoing or liability.
"The settlement did resolve any and all claims Mr. Sequeira might have against the county, which was one of the reasons for the settlement," Peterson said.
Sequeira said he made it clear before and during settlement negotiations that he was not interested in pursuing a political-retaliation claim.
"This was never about politics," said Sequeira, who is now the assistant DA for Mendocino County. "It was about workplace violence and me getting hurt."
The $50,000 paid to Sequeira come from the District Attorney's budget at a time when staffing at the office is at a low because of years of budget cuts.
In a third lawsuit involving the office or its employees, deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett is suing the county, former District Attorney Robert Kochly, Sequeira and others on allegations that he was maliciously prosecuted on rape charges. Some traced Gressett's 2008 arrest to the beginning of the office's non-budgetary turmoil.
An indictment charging Gressett with raping a junior attorney was dismissed last year on grounds that state prosecutors should have disclosed to a grand jury a $450,000 settlement the county paid to his accuser.
Staff writer Lisa Vorderbrueggen contributed to this report. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.