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Kern County Settles David Silva Wrongful Death Case For $3.4 Million

Chain Cohn & Stiles
Attorney David Cohn speaks to the media on Thursday flanked by members of the Silva family.

Attorneys for the family of a Bakersfield man who died in custody of the Kern County Sheriff’s office three years ago have settled their wrongful death lawsuit with the county for $3.4 million. FM89’s Joe Moore reports.

David Silva was arrested in May 2013 after he was found intoxicated, sleeping outside Kern Medical Center. He allegedly resisted arrest, was beaten by deputies, and was then handcuffed and restrained before he died.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood says deputies did nothing wrong and the coroner’s office indicated Silva died from a heart condition. But at a press conference in Bakersfield today attorney Thomas Seabaugh disagreed, saying the county was at fault.

Seabaugh: “This settlement represents for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department a richly deserved black eye. This case was more than about how they killed David Silva, but how they tried to cover up what happened.”

Seabaugh claims the plaintiffs in the case have an expert witness who determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation brought about when deputies restrained Silva.

Attorney David Cohn also questioned the objectivity of the coroner’s investigation, since in Kern County, the coroner is a branch of the Sheriff’s office.

Cohn: “What do we know about the relationship between the Sheriff’s office and the coroner? They’re one in the same. The sheriff is the coroner in this county. How can you have an effective investigation, how can you have an unbiased investigation when the coroner is an arm of the Sheriff’s department?”

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in the coming days.

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of KVPR / Valley Public Radio. He has led the station through major programming changes, the launch of KVPR Classical and the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership the station was named California Non-Profit of the Year by Senator Melissa Hurtado (2019), and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting (2022).