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Denver settles civil rights lawsuit after police raided family’s home, arrested them

DENVER -- Nearly eight years ago, Denver police officers kicked down the door of a family watching TV, beat them up and arrested them.

It turned out police made a big mistake. And now the city of Denver is on the hook for more than $1.5 million.

The Denver City Council approved the proposed settlement at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night.

About two years ago, a Denver jury awarded the family $1.8 million. Now, the city is ready to pay up.

On Jan. 27, 2009, four Denver officers roughed up Daniel Martinez and his three sons -- the youngest just 16 years old -- after police charged into their home.

A civil rights lawsuit said police expected to see prostitutes and drug dealers. But what police didn't realize was the drug dealers had moved out a month earlier and the Martinez family moved in.

Police then charged the family, who did not have criminal records, with felony assault on police, which carries mandatory prison terms. A jury found them not guilty.

Then, a separate federal jury awarded the family nearly $2 million for malicious prosecution, excessive force and and unlawful entry into their home.

Much of that money was punitive, meant to punish the police.

"Any time there are payouts for police misconduct, the citizens of Denver should be very very concerned about what in the world is going on with their law enforcement officers. There should be zero payouts for police misconduct," said attorney David Lane, who represents the family.

He said the family gave the city a break by settling for $200,000 less than a jury awarded the family.

He said the city realized the risk of continuing to appeal would drive up the cost of the case.

The Martinez family did not want to speak about the settlement, Lane said.