A federal judge ruled Monday that Susan Hunt, the mother of the 22-year-old man shot and killed by Saratoga Springs police, agreed to a $900,000 settlement and a gag order about the case and can't back out of it.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ordered the city to deposit the money with the court, which will hold it until a decision is reached on whether Hunt's former attorney, Robert Sykes, is entitled to 40 percent of it as his fee.
Darrien Hunt, 22, was pursued by Saratoga Springs officers who shot and killed him in September 2014 after a 911 call to police reported a man carrying a samurai sword in the city. His parents, Susan and Curtis Hunt, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city.
At that time, Sykes said evidence indicated Darrien Hunt was fatally shot while falling or on the ground. The lawsuit sought more than $2 million in damages.
Karra Porter, the attorney for Curtis Hunt, and Sykes reached an agreement that the city would pay $900,000 to settle the lawsuit.
The settlement contained a nondisparagement clause, and Susan Hunt told a rally last year that marked the anniversary of her son's death that she had turned down a $900,000 settlement and would not agree to a provision that barred her from commenting about the case. She fired Sykes and retained new attorneys who argued that she had not reached a final agreement.
But Campbell ruled that the evidence showed Sykes had the authority to settle the case for Susan Hunt and that the agreement is binding and enforceable even if Hunt did not sign it. Curtis Hunt had agreed to the settlement.
"We're hopeful the decision will put an end to what has been a very public and contentious dispute and allow the parties to move forward, particularly for the families," said Heather White, an attorney for Saratoga Springs.
White said the decision should allow the police officers to "go forward with the county attorney's conclusion that their actions that day were justified and they can move forward with that and continue to serve the citizens in Saratoga Springs."
The attorneys for Susan Hunt did not return emails seeking comment.
In her ruling, Campbell cited a string of emails and phone calls between Susan Hunt and Sykes, including the transcript of a telephone call in which Sykes told Hunt that the nondisparagement clause was a deal breaker for the city and asked, "And you told me that it was OK, you would go ahead and sign it with that clause in there, right?"
She replied "Yeah."
The agreement was valid when Sykes and Porter agreed to the terms even if Susan Hunt did not sign it, the judge said.
"Nothing more needed to be done," Campbell wrote in her decision.
Campbell turned down the city's request for attorney fees it incurred by Hunt's attempt to back out of the deal. The judge told the sides to file arguments on how the $900,000 should be distributed and whether Sykes is due the 40 percent he had negotiated as his fee. He declined to comment Monday.