The Eureka City Council pushed back a normally routine vote to destroy older police department internal affairs files after the defense attorney for a sergeant accused of committing assault while on duty said the papers include documents that could be important to his case.

A motion by Councilwoman Linda Atkins to hold off on the item until January was passed unanimously.

”We certainly hope that the records won't have to be preserved much longer,” attorney Patrik Griego said. “It's simply our hope that this case is nearing its conclusion ... but we're not there yet. This evidence could be relevant not only to a criminal case, but a potential civil case. Until that's been determined, we'd like these to be preserved.”

Griego argued in motions filed in the case that EPD Sgt. Adam Laird's assault case is the first in recent memory that the Eureka Police Department has referred to the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office for prosecution. All other excessive force complaints have been handled internally, he wrote.

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the matter on Friday.

Laird was arrested April 17, and has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault under the color of authority and filing a false report stemming from a Dec. 6, 2012, arrest. He is accused of kicking a juvenile suspect who was lying on the ground being cuffed by another officer.

Griego is asking a judge to compel the district attorney's office to turn over evidence in the case -- including internal affairs files dating back 10 years -- arguing that Laird is being targeted for prosecution based on his political and union activities, and his support of former Eureka Police Chief Garr Nielsen.

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.