Judge considers King Tut curse in disability claim

SAN FRANCISCO -- A police officer who claims the ancient curse of Egyptian King Tut was partly to blame for his stroke two years ago will learn within 60 days whether a Superior Court judge believes it.

Judge Richard P. Figone agreed Tuesday to consider and decide within 60 days arguments in police Lt. George LaBrash's appeal of a retirement board decision against his claim for $18,400 in disability benefits.


LaBrash suffered a stroke in 1979 while guarding the precious golden funeral mask of King Tutankhamun, which was in San Francisco during the nationwide tour of Egyptian treasures two years ago.

His lawsuit claimed that the spirit of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian boy king who lived 3,300 years ago, hexed him.

The city Retirement Board denied his original claim that the stress of guarding the most precious piece exhibited, the gold burial mask, caused the stroke. In his original claim, LaBrash did not mention the curse.

According to legend, the curse of King Tut afflicts those who disturb the dead.

'Egyptians believed in a curse, pronounced by Osiris, god of the dead, on all who should disturb the dead,' said Michael Hebel, LaBrash's attorney and a fellow police officer.


'LaBrash suffered a stroke after having positioned himself, as his employment required, directly in front of the golden mask ... which for 3,300 years covered the head and shoulders of the mummified remains of the god-king Tutankhamun.'

Hebel's brief reviewed curse theories formulated from the deaths of a dozen people who have discovered or displayed the tomb's riches since 1923. On the basis of those theories, he maintained that LaBrash deserved $18,400 in compensation for the eight months it took him to recuperate.

LaBrash has already received $6,500 in state Workers Compensation for part of the time he was ill -- from September 1979 to January 1980.

Deputy City Attorney Dan McGuire called the argument was 'far-fetched.'

'It would be a tragedy for taxpayers to pay $20,000 for an argument that sounds like it came out of 'Ripley's Believe it or Not,'' said McGuire.

The current suit contends the Retirement Booard abused its discretion in denying LaBrash full benefits. He received accrued sick leave and vacation pay for part of his illness, and then went without pay for several months.

La Brash wants the board to rehear the case

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