Rodney King to marry juror who secured his $3.8m court pay-out

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The Independent US

It was an emblematic case of police brutality and racism, which ignited America and prompted almost a week of violent rioting. Yet, after 19 years and a multi-million dollar payout, divorce and a stint on reality TV, there might just be some kind of happy ending for Rodney King.

King, who in 1991 was the victim of a brutal beating by Los Angeles police officers, is reported to be marrying one of the jurors who ensured he got a $3.8m (£2.5m) settlement.

His case sparked major riots in LA in 1992, when the police officers involved in the assault were acquitted. The riots resulted in 53 deaths, and several blocks of the city were torched, causing an estimated $1bn of damage.

But out of the rubble, a romance emerged. Cynthia Kelley, one of King's jurors in his successful 1994 compensation case, had pushed to award King a $3.8m payout. She told website this week that "during deliberations, the other jurors said, 'Let's just award him $100,000, you know he's just gonna blow it anyway', but she had stood firm. Kelley was the only black member of the jury. After the trial, the pair conducted a secret relationship. But things didn't work out and the couple lost contact – until King, 44, rang Kelley out the blue four months ago and rekindled their romance.

The couple have now revealed just how quickly after the trial the initial spark was lit. "Our first date was the next day after the trial when Rodney's lawyer and Rodney met me in a local pizzeria in Newport Beach," Kelley told Radar. At the time, both King and Kelley were married, although they both later got divorced.

Despite their swift attraction, the couple separated when King took part in a reality TV show. Having battled with alcohol and drug addiction, King appeared on the VH1 show, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. But four months ago, the couple patched things up when King telephoned Kelley to ask if she was still single.

"We hadn't spoken to each other for many years, and it just so happened that we reconnected," Kelley is quoted as saying. "It was like we were never apart from one another."

The assault took place in 1991, when King, a taxi driver, was dragged out of his vehicle by four white police officers, following a car chase through the San Fernando Valley. He was repeatedly kicked, punched and beaten with clubs at the side of the road. A passing amateur cameraman captured the assault on video, which was later shown on national television. The footage inflamed the American public when it was aired.

At a trial the following year, the four officers were all acquitted. The decision prompted outrage across LA, and six nights of rioting followed. King made a tearful television appearance during the riots, appealing for the violence to stop: "Can't we all just get along, can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?"

When King later sued the city of Los Angeles he was awarded the $3.8m in damages, although it is thought that more than half the money went on legal fees.

The on-off couple are now engaged to be married, although a date has yet to be set. King called Kelley "a godsend, a blessing in my life" in the Radar interview. "I don't know what I would have done without her in my life... I can't wait to make her my wife!"