Man Acquitted of Felony – Public Defender Office Cites as Example of Delayed Justice in ‘Empty’ SF Courts

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco Public Defender Office Thursday charged again that people accused of crimes are waiting more than a year for justice, while courtrooms in the Superior Court “sit empty.”

The example cited by the PD is former San Francisco firefighter Stephen Kloster, who was acquitted Wednesday of felony charges in an altercation with his doctor.

Kloster was charged with two felonies: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and elder abuse because the doctor is over 65 years old. The felony assault charge against Kloster was dismissed when the jury hung 6-6. He was found not guilty of all other charges, except for misdemeanor battery.

Kloster spent 410 days in jail, including 274 days past his trial deadline. He was released on time served, as he has already served nearly a year longer than his misdemeanor conviction would have required, said the PD office.

“This egregious delay of justice for Mr. Kloster is shameful. No one should have to wait this long for a court system that continues to violate the rights and liberties of the accused,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.

He added, “Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof did his job quite well, the jurors did theirs, but until we get more courtrooms for trials, more and more people like Mr. Kloster will continue to suffer from the courts not doing theirs.”

Raju sued San Francisco Superior Court in September to open more courtrooms and prioritize the backlog of criminal trials created during the pandemic.

Raju claims there were more than 200 people accused of felonies, about 25 percent of the jail population in San Francisco County, whose trial deadlines have passed, as of the end of 2021. Another 300 people accused of felonies or misdemeanors are out of custody whose trial deadlines have expired. But courtrooms “sit empty,” charges Raju.

In the Kloster case, the doctor victim “admitted getting into a fighting posture during a verbal confrontation with Mr. Kloster who had come to his office to inquire about important medical records he’d first requested from the doctor six years prior,” according the PD office.

Deputy Public Defender Maloof argued “Mr. Kloster acted in reasonable self-defense when he hit the doctor who had admittedly put up his fists and reportedly charged at Mr. Kloster. After spending the past 410 days in jail during the pandemic, Mr. Kloster will finally be released and able to resume caregiver duties for his elderly mother.”

“Psychologists are trained to de-escalate, not to escalate and instigate combat,” said PD Maloof. “It’s obscene that Mr. Kloster was not only charged with serious felonies, but that his life and wellbeing has been completely upended by the criminal courts for nearly two years, while it only took a jury a day and a half to reach a reasonable decision.”

The doctor, at trial, said he knew Kloster suffers from mental illness, and admited, said the PD, the “marks on his face in photos taken after the incident were likely razor bumps and not a result of being hit or strangled, as the prosecutor had falsely suggested to the jury, and that there was no reason to believe that Mr. Kloster was aware of his age.”

“Mr. Kloster has been fighting the city of San Francisco for several years after he faced harassment and discrimination due to a work-related medical condition. He and his attorney in the civil employment lawsuit had tried for several years to gather medical records from the doctor in question as a means to show how Mr. Kloster has suffered psychologically from being severely ostracized and forced out of his career as a firefighter,” the PD office said in a press statement.

“These were the records Mr. Kloster was attempting to retrieve when he went to the doctor’s office on the date of the incident in November 2019, where again he was stymied by the doctor, which led to an argument,” the PD added.

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