Firefighters: ‘Enough Was Enough'

One of the firefighters who sued the city of San Diego for sexual harassment connected to a Gay Pride parade appearance called Tuesday verdict  "a victory for all fire departments around the country."

Captain John Ghiotto, along with firefighters Jason Hewitt, Chad Allison and Alexander Kane say they were forced by city fire chiefs to take part in San Diego’s Gay Pride Parade in 2005. They say during the parade they were sexually harassed by spectators and teased by other firefighters for participating in the parade.

"I don’t think they could’ve put four stronger individuals on that rig that day," Ghiotto said recalling the gestures from the crowd. “You hear about all the stuff that goes on during these parades. Everything that could've went wrong that day, did."

In 2006, a jury came back with a No on the retaliation claim but was deadlocked on the sexual harassment claim. So the judge declared a mistrial.

Jurors in a second trial returned a verdict Tuesday, awarding damages equaling $34,000. The City Attorney's office immediately announced it would appeal, according to the plaintiff's attorney.

"The money was never an issue for us. We should have never went to court. We tried to solve this thing at the lowest level possible," said Ghiotto.

One firefighter claimed a quote "lesbian fire chief" retaliated against him for protesting the parade assignment, by giving him a poor job performance review.

Ghiotto mentioned a phone threat he received that was played in court for jurors to hear. "It’s been a rough road," he said. Ghiotto said he had friends offer to stand in his front yard. He even went to the extent as to show his wife and two sons living in the home how to reload the shotgun.

He said the fight was worth it. "We felt unless we stood up for ourselves, it was going to happen again," said Ghiotto.

The four firefighters thanked jurors in the hallway of the courthouse Tuesday. Capt. Ghiotto said they felt support from their colleagues. “About 98% of people on the job agreed with what we were doing. A lot of people kept it to themselves and that’s up to them.”

Now, the defense is turning its attention to helping the firefighters pay down some of the $125,000 in legal fees. Fundraisers have so far raised $35,000. Those interested in helping raise money for the legal fees can check out a website set up for donations.

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