DA’s Office and Public Defender in San Francisco Push Back at Loss of Police Oversight

DA Boudin speaks during Thursday’s press conference

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – Responding to the announcement of Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday who announced the police were pulling out of the MOU, DA Chesa Boudin held a press conference while elected Public Defender Mano Raju issued his own statement in opposition to the move by the chief.

“Very serious concerns have been brought to my attention regarding recent testimony in the Superior Court of the County of San Francisco from a member of the DA’s Office who was assigned as an investigator to your Independent Investigations Bureau (IIB) at the time of the incident in question,” Chief Scott said. “I have reviewed the court transcripts where the DA investigator provided testimony to the court, under oath, showing that the spirit and the letter of MOU processes and procedures we agreed upon have not been followed by the DA’s Office.”

“Rarely do officers across the nation face criminal charges for on-duty violence, and San Francisco is no exception,” Mano Raju said in a statement released by his office on Thursday.  “I am disappointed that yesterday, SFPD Chief Bill Scott unilaterally withdrew from an agreement which ensures that an outside entity—the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office—as the lead investigator for police shootings, in-custody deaths, and uses of force resulting in serious bodily injury.”

Raju said, “This agreement, while not perfect, provided independent oversight to a critical investigation process that has repeatedly failed to provide justice for victims of police violence.

“Without this MOU in place, the SFPD will go back to policing themselves, which presents a clear conflict of interest that San Franciscans have long rejected by creating oversight bodies and mechanisms to provide transparency.”

He continued, “For a department that still stops, searches, and inflicts violence disproportionately against Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities, the public deserves at a minimum the transparency and protection that this agreement provided.

“Chief Scott’s sudden announcement should alarm the public and everyone who has called for police reform in San Francisco and across the country. We can no longer permit the police to police themselves. The San Francisco Police Commission should assert its authority and act immediately to preserve independent oversight.”

“In July of 2021, the District Attorney’s Office (‘DA Office’) and the San Francisco Police Department (‘SFPD’) agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (‘MOU’) for the investigation of officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and uses of force incidents that result in serious bodily injury,” Scott wrote in a letter to DA Boudin.

“Very serious concerns have been brought to my attention regarding recent testimony in the Superior Court of the County of San Francisco from a member of the DA’s Office who was assigned as an investigator to your Independent Investigations Bureau (IIB) at the time of the incident in question,” Scott said, as noted above.

He added, “It appears that the DA’s Office has an ongoing practice of investigations against SFPD officers that includes withholding and concealing information and evidence the SFPD is entitled to have to further ancillary criminal investigations in accordance with the MOU.”

During his press conference, DA Boudin noted that the MOU was agreed to starting in 2019, following a series of police shootings that including the killings of Jessica Williams, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez and many more.

“There were lives tragically and unnecessarily taken at the hands of police. They were all people of color,” Boudin said.

“The MOU was designed to remedy and prevent that kind of violence. It was designed to restore public trust in the independence of investigations into those use of force incidents,” Boudin said.  “It was working since the MOU was signed in 2019.  Police killings have gone down dramatically from 2015 to 2018, just a three-year period.”

By 2020 and 2021, “there was a single fatal police use of force each year.”

Boudin said, “They should not simply walk away from the table.”

DA Chesa Boudin’s office has been criticized after Investigator Magen Hayashi testified that she was pressured by an Assistant DA to mislead police investigators about the status of an underlying criminal investigation with the police department.

However, that investigation was taking place in December 2019, prior to Boudin’s taking office the next month.

According to Hayashi’s sworn testimony from the hearing, the “understanding that I had in our unit was that our investigative steps, meaning the investigators, was not a two-way street with the police department and that we — they were to give us information, but we would not provide that back to them.”

Dacari Spier’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, told the Vanguard on Wednesday that it was actually the police who had withheld critical information from Spiers, a victim of a police beating.

“The Police Officers Association has been waiting for this,” he said.

In fact, the POA’s fingerprints are all over this.  Briggs noted that Supervisor Catherine Stefani is heavily funded by the POA.  Moreover, Hayashi’s attorney, Christopher Shea, acts as attorney to the POA as well.

“The thing with this issue with the DA Investigator is that the DA Investigator admitted to lying, she got on the stand and admitted to lying,” Briggs said.  “But keep in mind, this DA Investigator was at the DA’s office well before Chesa.”

Later in his press conference, Boudin said, “We cannot lose sight of what police accountability means here in San Francisco and across the country.

“Why does it matter as we stand here?” he asked.  “We’re less than two years out from the murder of George Floyd, millions of us across the country, and right here in San Francisco reckon with the righteous rage we felt as a result of that murder, we were outraged by the sense of immunity with which officer Derek Chauvin sat and kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.”

Boudin was asked during the press conference about Hayashi’s testimony that she was “told to remove exculpatory evidence from an arrest warrant and that they felt pressured into doing so, or they’d lose their job.”

Boudin responded noting that “there’s a gag order in place in the case, that’s currently on trial.”

But he did say, “This is the first trial in modern San Francisco history. First time ever, when a police officer on duty accused of unlawful force has actually been brought to a San Francisco jury. It’s the first time ever.”

Boudin said, “It is no coincidence that it is in the middle of that trial, that the department chooses to walk away from this MOU that has been working based on allegations that predate my administration.”

He said, “If in fact there were violations of this MOU, the appropriate remedy would be to sit down and talk about how we fix those kinds of violations and how we prevent them from occurring in the future.”

Moreover, as the Vanguard reported earlier this week, Judge Teresa Caffese questioned both whether the evidence was exculpatory and whether it has been excluded.

She said, “I haven’t heard of any exculpatory information that’s been excluded.”

All of the information in the affidavit in question, the judge said, was properly discovered to the defense.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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9 Comments

  1. Keith Olson

    “Exclusive: The courtroom drama behind SFPD and Chesa Boudin’s most recent feud”

    “Were you instructed to remove exculpatory information from the warrant?” asked the attorney for the police officer.
    “Yes,” replied Hayashi.
    “Who instructed you to remove exculpatory information from the arrest warrant?” the lawyer asked. In response, the investigator named an assistant district attorney.
    “What information did he instruct you to remove from the arrest warrant?” the lawyer asked.
    “A significant amount of information, from the 911 callers” reporting the domestic violence, the investigator said. She added that an assistant district attorney “wrote a comment on the side saying to remove it, that it was not relevant information to the case.”
    That information was therefore hidden from the police, Hayashi claimed. The evidence would have helped the defense of the police officer accused of using excessive force, the investigator claimed, because it showed he was responding to a domestic violence incident. A judge disagreed, finding there was no compelling evidence removed.
    Hayashi said she feared for her job if she did not remove her account of the evidence from the paperwork, part of a pattern of intimidation.
    “I was threatened by attorneys three different times that if I didn’t agree with their warrant they would report me to DA Boudin and that we were looking at termination possibilities,” Hayashi testified a week ago. “My lieutenant assisted me with this because it was such a severe problem, and he was fired.”
    Hayashi said there was “an understanding” in her department that the DA’s office withholds information about investigations into alleged excessive force incidents involving police from the police department.
    “If I did have information, I was — I was told that I don’t share it. That occurred at multiple times in my tenure,” she said. “When investigators or someone would call to ask for information, if I didn’t know I’d ask the attorney, and there were different attorneys that said the same thing, that would say, ‘Tell them we don’t know. We don’t have any plans’ or ‘no comment,’ something to that effect.”
    https://www.sfexaminer.com/findings/exclusive-the-courtroom-drama-behind-sfpd-and-chesa-boudins-most-recent-feud/

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re barking on this tree again. An arrest warrant affidavit does not need to disclose exculpatory evidence. The evidence that was removed was from a second interview. The entire interview was turned over and the interview repeated the information from the first interview. There was no new information. There was nothing withheld. And none of the information was exculpatory. There is nothing here. Nothing quoted that was not in our article from a few days ago, btw.

      1. Keith Olson

        There is nothing here.

        That’s your view.  There’s much quoted that’s damaging to the DA’s office.

        “I was threatened by attorneys three different times that if I didn’t agree with their warrant they would report me to DA Boudin and that we were looking at termination possibilities,” Hayashi testified a week ago. “My lieutenant assisted me with this because it was such a severe problem, and he was fired.”

        For instance the bolded part of Magen Hayashi’s testimony, that’s the first time that I had read that allegation.

      2. Keith Olson

        Also revealed in the article:

        Nicole Pifari, the attorney for the police officer on trial, claimed the DA’s legal team attempted to intimidate Hayashi in the courtroom after the judge left to take a break. Pifari was questioning Hayashi as part of her defense of the police officer. Hayashi’s testimony about pressure to suppress evidence led the DA’s defense team to yell at and seek to intimidate Hayashi and her attorney when the judge was out of the room, Pifari told the judge.
        “After the court exited the courtroom,” Pifari told the judge, attorneys for the DA’s office “started yelling at… began to yell at counsel for Ms. Hayashi telling him to do his job.”
        Pifari told the judge that one of the attorneys for the DA’s office “pointed at the witness and told her she was being accused of a crime. It’s intimidating a witness, it’s unprofessional, it’s very problematic that they’re trying to affect the testimony of this witness off the record. I have a real problem with what just happened. They were yelling at her attorney in open court.” It’s not clear what crime the attorney allegedly referred to.
         

  2. Keith Olson

    So now Public Defender Mano Raju has joined the Prosecutors Alliance of California of which Boudin is a member in opposition to the SF police chief pulling out of the MOU.

    Well knock me over with a feather!

  3. Keith Olson

    Cops must be held accountable, I don’t think anyone is going to argue against that. But so should the DA’s office. But when an employee of the DA’s office feels like they will lose their job for being truthful, something isn’t right. Don’t you agree with that David?

    1. David Greenwald

      My problem is that the DA investigator is not a neutral party here, much of what she is complaining about actually preceded Chesa, and nothing was actually withheld. She wanted stuff in the warrant affidavit, but that stuff was again not exculpatory and turned over during the discovery. So you don’t seem to want to address this established points. She’s then claiming that she’s being threatened, but threatened over what exactly? She’s a former cop represented by the POA attorney. I don’t find her claims credible here. As Curtis said, the cops were looking for an excuse to pull out of the MOU and attempt to sink Chesa at the same time.

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