San Diego

Men Jailed, Accused of Being Gang Members To Split $1.5M Payout

Brandon Duncan and Aaron Harvey will receive $737,500 each as part of a civil settlement with the city of San Diego

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The city of San Diego will pay nearly $1.5 million to two men who spent seven months in jail after their arrest in a controversial gang case.

Aaron Harvey and local hip-hop performer Brandon Duncan, also known as "Tiny Doo," were among 15 people arrested over the span of two months in 2014 for conspiracy to participate in a violent Southeastern San Diego street gang.

The $1.475 million civil settlement, scheduled for final City Council approval Tuesday, will mark a final chapter in the highly-publicized case which ended with both Harvey and Duncan walking away free of any charges.

The original criminal case stemmed from nine shootings back in 2013 and 2014 involving Lincoln Park gang members.

The two men were among more than a dozen people who were arrested for allegedly conspiring to participate in a violent street gang and spent more than seven months in jail before a state judge dismissed the felony case against them. Jackie Crea has the story for NBC 7 Investigates.

The San Diego County District Attorney and the San Diego Police Department arrested 15 suspects under a controversial state law passed in 2000 which makes it a felony to promote, assist, or benefit criminal gang activity. Even though they were not accused of murder or any violent acts, the defendants faced life in prison for their alleged participation as direct associates.

Duncan, now 38, and Harvey, now 31, have repeatedly denied any involvement as gang members, but were tied to the case through music, social media posts, and tattoos.

Bishop Cornelius Bowser, pastor of San Diego's Charity Apostolic Church, frequently advocates for wrongly-accused gang members and supported the men during their trial.

Bowser called the settlement, reached through a federal mediation program, an acknowledgment of injustices, but said more needs to be done to prevent other young black men from being found "guilty by association."

"One of the things when I was in the preliminary hearing, the gang detectives at SDPD said there was over 400 documented gang members from Lincoln Park and every single one of them could've been arrested in that case" said Bowser. "That's how they were viewing our community."

Duncan and Harvey's attorney Mark Zebrowski took the case pro bono giving the two men $737,500 each.

Zebrowski declined to comment until after the City Council gives its final approval to the settlement at next Tuesday's meeting.

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