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Jury Awards $1M To Boy, 12, Asked To Help In School Drug Sting

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A jury awarded more than $1 million to a 12-year-old boy Monday who took part in a campus drug sting after school officials asked for his help at a San Fernando Valley middle school.

The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for a short time Friday and all day Monday before finding in favor of the boy, who will receive $1 million for past and future emotional distress, plus $15,250 to pay for past and future tutoring.

Lawyers for the boy had recommended an award of $20 million. Attorneys on both sides declined comment.

One female juror said afterward that the boy undoubtedly had been affected by what he went through and that she hoped his future would be better.

His parents, Daniel C. and Reina C., filed the suit on his behalf in January 2010, saying their son, identified in court papers only as Roe, was told to buy drugs from a suspected drug dealer without their permission. The boy’s father embraced his wife after the verdict was read.

The plan was enacted after the boy told Porter Middle School administrators that a 14-year-old, identified in the suit as Doe, was selling marijuana on campus. Without telling police or the younger student’s parents, the administrators gave the 12-year-old $5 and asked him to buy drugs on Feb. 18, 2009, according to his parents’ court papers.

The jury found the administrators — Porter School Principal Joyce Edelson, Dean Laura Custudio and Assistant Principal Armando Mejia — liable for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but not for conspiracy.

They also concluded the trio did not act with malice, which would have triggered a second phase to determine punitive damages.

Custudio and Mejia are no longer at the school and Edelson has retired.

All showed little emotion as they heard the verdict. However, Edelson and Custudio wept during their testimony.

Custudio testified that Edelson and Mejia approved the sting after she presented the drug buy proposal to them. All three said they believed at the time they were doing nothing wrong, but said that in hindsight their decisions were unwise.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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