The father of a woman who has been missing since she was released from a sheriff's substation in Malibu filed a claim against Los Angeles County today, arguing the woman should have been given a mental-health evaluation and not released in the middle of the night without a car or identification.
"Mitrice Richardson was released by sheriff's deputies even though she was exhibiting signs of mental instability and they did not conduct any mental evaluation before they released her,'' attorney Benjamin Schonbrun told reporters outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles after filing the claim on behalf of Mitrice's father, Michael.
"They released her into a remote section of Malibu without any identification, cell phone or other means of transportation,'' he said.
"Mitrice Richardson has not been seen since.''
Sheriff's officials have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying they told Mitrice she could remain at the station as long as she wanted.
A claim is a prelude to a possible lawsuit but does not specify a damages amount, although Michael Richardson said he plans to sue for $50 million.
Today's claim was made solely on behalf of Michael Richardson and Mitrice.
Mitrice's mother, Latice Sutton, Mitrice and her estate were listed as plaintiffs in three separate claims filed by attorney Leo Terrell on their behalf Jan. 6, and Mitrice's father was listed in a fourth claim filed by
Terrell five days later. None of those claims specified the amount of money damages.
But Michael Richardson said today that "Leo was never my attorney.'' He said he believed the earlier filing turned people away from trying to help find Mitrice.
But now, frustrated by what he views as authorities' inaction, he was ready to file his own claim. There is also a six-month time limit on filing from the date of occurrence.
"They can't just `man up' and say they made a mistake,'' Richardson said.
He says he will use any money won in a suit to support "the best politicians to represent our district'' and educate young women to be more aware of their surroundings in a world full of sexual predators.
Mitrice Richardson, 24, who was arrested Sept. 16 after being unable to pay her $89 bill at Geoffrey's, 27400 Pacific Coast Highway, apparently had a mental breakdown after being awake for as many as five nights, according to diaries found in the car she was driving, Los Angeles police said.
Restaurant staff told investigators she was behaving bizarrely and speaking gibberish. Since her disappearance, Los Angeles Police Department homicide investigators have said they found evidence in her diaries and text messages that she was suffering from severe bipolar disorder.
Sheriff's deputies summoned to the restaurant searched Richardson's car and found some marijuana, prompting them to impound it. Richardson was taken to the sheriff's station, where she was booked for failing to pay her bill and released about 1 a.m. Sept. 17, deputies said.
Deputies said Richardson passed a sobriety test, and she was allowed to walk away from the station in the 27000 block of Agoura Road. She may have been spotted resting in a yard later that morning, but that was the last time she was seen.
Michael Richardson told reporters sheriff's deputies should not have released his daughter in the condition she was in.
"My daughter was not drunk,'' he said. "My daughter suffered a behavioral issue that night that 12 witnesses told the L.A. sheriff's that she was (experiencing). And they failed to have her evaluated. They are responsible because they are the last people that had her. In the state of California, if I allow somebody to leave my house drunk and they get in an accident, if ... my residence is the last place that she was at then I'm held responsible. Why are the sheriffs not being held responsible? They should be, bottom line.''