Responding to Allegations, Chief Pulls Out of MOU with SF DA’s Office, Spiers’ Attorney Levels Charges Back at Police for Withholding Evidence Themselves

Photo: Eric Risberg/ Associated Press

Curtis Briggs Noted Police Were So Out of Control the Night of the Beating, the Hospital Had to Kick Them Out and Post Their Own Security

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week, following allegations by a DA investigator, paused a $700,000 settlement to Dacari Spiers, who suffered broken bones and was hospitalized after being beaten with a baton by Officer Terrance Stangel.

This was followed on Wednesday with San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott terminating the MOU with the DA’s office after last week’s accusation by a DA investigator that prosecutors withheld evidence.

“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.”

A district attorney’s office investigator, Magen Hayashi, according to a release on Wednesday from the police chief, “testified in that hearing that under pressure from assistant district attorneys she misled police investigators about the status of an underlying criminal investigation into a domestic violence incident, and withheld evidence from a sworn affidavit.”

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.”

However, Dacari Spier’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, told the Vanguard on Wednesday that it was actually the police who had withheld critical information from Spiers.  He also confirmed that these accusations coming from Hayashi pre-date current DA Chesa Boudin’s tenure.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Catherine Stefani raised questions which prompted her colleagues to postpone the settlement.

“I do not feel comfortable approving this settlement given how many significant issues remain unresolved and given the light that was shown on this case when the DA investigator testified in open court,” Stefani said.

Stangel’s attorney, Nicole Pifari, filed a motion last week to dismiss the charges based on “prosecutorial misconduct” and “deceptive and reprehensible methods” used by the district attorney’s office.

“The DA’s deceit and concealment of real evidence is disturbing, it is corrupt, and it is a violation of public trust,” Pifari wrote.  “Most importantly, however, it is illegal.”

But Judge Teresa Caffese called this evidence “irrelevant to the case.”  It might have bearing on whether or not Spiers should have been charged with DV, but not whether or not Stangel was justified in using force on him and whether that force was excessive.

The judge declared that “whether or not the D.A.’s office decided to charge Mr. Spiers with DV is somewhat irrelevant.”  She added “the ultimate question is whether or not there was excessive force used when Mr. Spiers allegedly was not acceding to the commands of the officers.”

The judge added, “I haven’t heard of any exculpatory information that’s been excluded.”

Supervisor Stefani called Hayashi’s accusations “extremely serious.

“I am very concerned about how nonchalantly the underlying domestic abuse case is being brushed aside, as if this victim nor future victims of domestic violence don’t deserve our city to protect them,” Stefani said.

Curtis Briggs, responding to the Board of Supervisors in a phone interview on Wednesday, said, “It’s frustrating because they clearly don’t understand the issue and they’re, they’re holding up a settlement that my, my client has been struggling for almost six months waiting for.

“He needs this money to get back on his feet,” he said.  “So, it’s disappointing that they delayed it.”

According to Briggs, Spiers was attempting to console his girlfriend who had her purse stolen by someone at Fisherman’s Wharf.

“They were up there on a date,” he said.  “He was giving her a hug.  Telling her everything was going to be okay.  Trying to calm her down.”

For reasons unknown, “two young ladies, for whatever reason, said that there was a domestic violence situation.”

Briggs said, “We know from ample evidence that wasn’t happening.  But that’s what the police thought they got.”

He said, “They see my client hugging his girlfriend and Officer Stangel literally jumps out of the car and starts beating my client with a baton.”

Briggs noted that the girlfriend said this from the start, that they were “hugging and kissing.”  But “they never took the opportunity to ask him to step away.  They never took an opportunity to investigate.  Officer Stangel literally jumped out of the car and started to beat Dacari with a baton within 30 or 45 seconds.”

Curtis Briggs also noted there was an interesting nuance to the story.

The girlfriend went to the hospital after the beating where Dacari Spiers is lying, receiving medical treatment.

“These cops forced their way into the hospital room, under the guise of serving a domestic violence restraining order, which they lied to a judge to get,” Briggs continued.  “They had no domestic violence case.  The supposed victim is saying ‘he was hugging me.’”

“This is how they cover their tracks,” Briggs said.  “This situation got so crazy that hospital security had to intervene and kick the police out.  And they put a hospital security officer (on duty).  The director of security for the hospital had to stay by the door to protect Dacari from the police.”

Later on, on Wednesday, Chief Scott announced his office was pulling out of an MOU with the DA’s office.

“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.

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.”

Following the announcement by Chief Scott, Curtis Briggs spoke for a second time with the Vanguard.

“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.”

Briggs noted, “(Stangel) was dispatched based on (the 911 call), Sergeant O’Connor had interviewed them and they got a statement from them.  And this statement in Stangel’s eyes is exculpatory… Because their premise is if Stangel was responding to a DV in progress, he has a right to jump out and start beating on people.”

But, Briggs said, “[i]t doesn’t change the fact that this investigator lied to the Police Sergeant about whether she got this interview or not.”

This interview took place in December 2019, before Chesa Boudin was the DA.

Briggs said, “But I also believe from our civil rights team that there are other interviews and recordings that the police had, where Stangel’s partners admit to seeing him do it (the beating) and didn’t understand why he did it.

“Those have never been disclosed to us,” he said.  “So, there’s clearly some type of police withholding things.”

A spokesperson for the DA, Rachel Marshall, responded to the letter with a statement that noted, “Following a string of fatal shootings by SFPD officers, SFDA and SFPD signed a joint MOU in 2019 to ensure that police use of force incidents would be independently investigated so that officers who inflicted unlawful violence would be held accountable.

“Since the MOU between our office and SFPD went into effect, our office has made enormous progress towards reducing police violence against San Franciscans and particularly people of color.”

Marshall said, “It is disappointing, but no coincidence SFPD chose to withdraw from this agreement during the first-ever trial against an on-duty San Francisco police officer for an unlawful beating.  SFPD’s decision comes a week after an SFPD fatal police shooting in which police falsely characterized the decedent as being in possession of a firearm and weeks after a criminal case was dismissed after officer excessive force came to light.”

She added, “San Franciscans deserve to be safe—including from unwarranted police violence.”

Meanwhile the Prosecutors Alliance of California urged Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors to intervene, following reports that the San Francisco Police Department intends to withdraw from an agreement that ensures police do not lead investigations into their own wrongdoing.

“It’s concerning that the Chief of Police has decided to unilaterally end this model agreement thus returning us to an era wherein police investigate themselves,” said Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry.

She added, “The agreement reached in San Francisco has become a national model that jurisdictions across the country have worked to replicate. We must ensure that an agreement serving the public interest is not torn to shreds by the very people whose personal and professional interests are involved.”

The release further notes that “the Chief of Police is ending the agreement due to a case that predates the current District Attorney. This timeline raises serious questions about legitimacy of the Chief’s motivations in ending independent investigations into cases of unlawful police use-of-force.”

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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17 Comments

  1. Keith Olson

    According to Briggs, Spiers was attempting to console his girlfriend who had her purse stolen by someone at Fisherman’s Wharf.
    “They were up there on a date,” he said.  “He was giving her a hug.  Telling her everything was going to be okay.  Trying to calm her down.”
    For reasons unknown, “two young ladies, for whatever reason, said that there was a domestic violence situation.”

    Here’s the actual transcript of the 911 call from one of the witnesses:

    The call transcript reads as follows: “I would like to report…I think it’s called domestic violence or something because, um, there’s this guy who is beating up on this girl. … He’s like, um, holding her like by the neck, like draggin’ her by the neck. … She was trying to get away, then he grabbed, and then he got her again.”
    A second witness described similar details in a statement including in Pifari’s motion.

    So Vanguard readers, you make your own decision on who you believe.  From the 911 transcript of this witness it sure doesn’t sound like hugs and kisses.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      And the police never substantiated that. Never forwarded charges. Charging decisions made under DA Loftus, who declined to file resisting arrest or DV charges.

      1. Keith Olson

        I thought your readers deserved a little more context to this story as you for some reason left out the 911 witness call transcript.  I don’t think it a stretch for the officer to approach Spiers thinking he was dealing with a DV situation in progress.  Now did the officer go too far, that’s for the courts to decide.  But it sure doesn’t sound like the officer encountered someone who was being affectionate to his girlfriend, at least from what these witnesses had to say.  Why would they lie?

        I mean seriously, the article states: For reasons unknown, “two young ladies, for whatever reason, said that there was a domestic violence situation.”

        I think the reasons are known, because that’s what they saw.

        1. David Greenwald

          Except that there were no injuries. The girlfriend immediately denied he was doing anything but hugging her. And even the other police officers questioned why Stangel immediately started hitting Spiers.

        2. Keith Olson

           The girlfriend immediately denied he was doing anything but hugging her.

          Now come on David, do we need to go down the rabbit hole of how DV victims will often deny that they were being attacked?  That’s always one of the toughest calls for cops to encounter, with the person being traumatized often turning on the cops too.   I mean after all, how could the 911 call witness have mistaken “holding her like by the neck, like draggin’ her by the neck” for an affectionate kiss and hug?

          And even the other police officers questioned why Stangel immediately started hitting Spiers.

          What, based on this?

          Briggs said, “But I also believe from our defense team that there are other interviews and recordings that the police had, where Stangel’s partners admit to seeing him do it (the beating) and didn’t understand why he did it.

          Now come on David, just the facts Jack, not what someone believes.  Maybe it’s true, but not based on that statement.

  2. Keith Olson

    He also confirmed that these accusations coming from Hayashi pre-date current DA Chesa Boudin’s tenure.

    But Magen Hayashi also stated this:

    “there had been another case I was working on where I was threatened by attorneys three different times that if I didn’t agree with their warrant they would report me to D.A. Boudin and that we were looking at termination possibilities.

  3. Rick Entrikin

    After reading this seemingly-credible instance of the San Francisco DA’s office withholding evidence that might explain, if not exculpate, the behavior of an accused police officer, it wasn’t surprising that the SF Police Department terminated it’s MOU with the SF DA’s office to jointly investigate allegations against officers.

    It was surprising to read, though, that the “Prosecutors Alliance of California” would object to termination of the MOU and defend such deceitful, and likely illegal, acts by the SF DA’s office:

    Meanwhile the Prosecutors Alliance of California urged Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors to intervene….

     

    So I wondered, who are the  Prosecutors Alliance of California?

    “An organization committed to reforming California’s criminal justice system through smart, safe, modern solutions that advance, not just public safety, but human dignity and community well-being.”

    I tried unsuccessfully to learn the names of Alliance members, but found only a single photograph on the “About – Prosecutors Alliance” website.   And who might that be?

    Yep – Chesa Boudin!

    (There was one other photo – on the Alliance Home Page – George Gascon with someone I didn’t recognize.)

    1. Keith Olson

      Amazing, but unfortunately not too many people dig down like you did here Rick.  Thanks for looking into that, it explains a lot.

      Too many people take at face value what is written in articles these days without doing their own analysis.

       

      1. Rick Entrikin

        Thanks, Keith.  It is unfortunate that we have to dig down to see what the written words really mean these days.  Coincidentally, I got my first exposure to half-truths at the local political level during the first big Ramco development in Davis: Mace Ranch.   The lofty, empty promises, the hollow protections and  the unfulfilled community benefits made a lasting impression.

        And reading the Vanguard has reinforced the need to dig deeper for the whole truth, especially in the areas of greatest skew – criminal justice and local development.

        1. Keith Olson

          And reading the Vanguard has reinforced the need to dig deeper for the whole truth, especially in the areas of greatest skew – criminal justice and local development.

          I hear you.  Just recently I and a few other commenters didn’t take what was written at face value and asked for proof which led to the Vanguard backing down and retracting part of the article.

      1. David Greenwald

        Channeling SNL – “Could it be S—–!”

        Prosecutor’s Alliance is the alternative to the conservative CDAA (California District Attorney’s Association) and has as its members – Chesa Boudin, George Gascon, Diana Becton (Contra Costa) and Tori Verber-Salazer (San Joaquin)

          1. David Greenwald

            We can have that discussion but it seems to me that the CDAA is extremely conservative. One reason for that is not are DA’s as a whole generally more conservative than the area they represent, but the structure of the CDAA gives one rep per county, which means that the rural counties that are more conservative have disproportionate influence, so the El Dorado DA has the same power as the LA DA.

      2. Rick Entrikin

        Great thought, Alan.  I hadn’t even considered Wiener!

        What I had to know, though, was whether our very own, increasingly-appreciated, Yolo County DA, Jeff Reisig, was a member of the Prosecutors Alliance of California (PAC).  Given the issue, Reisig’s participation seemed doubtful.   Still..,

        I was surprised that the member “prosecutors” were not named on the PAC website.  I was able to identify two of three people, Boudin and Gascon in website photos but, now, thanks to deeper digging, David G., reports that there are four members:

        Prosecutor’s Alliance is the alternative to the conservative CDAA (California District Attorney’s Association) and has as its members – Chesa Boudin, George Gascon, Diana Becton (Contra Costa) and Tori Verber-Salazer (San Joaquin)

        And here is the mission statement of the Prosecutors Alliance of California:

        An organization committed to reforming California’s criminal justice system through smart, safe, modern solutions that advance, not just public safety, but human dignity and community well-being.

        It will be interesting to see how these four POA prosecutors fare in re-election bids as voters evaluate the impacts of their ‘reforms.’

        In contrast, here is the mission statement of the CDAA:

        The mission of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) is to promote justice by enhancing prosecutorial excellence.

        In fairness, the CDAA website also does not list its member DAs, but does write “nearly all.”  We can assume that the maximum would be 54, since four belong to the POA.

        And since David G., described the four-member POA as the alternative to the “conservative” CDAA, I thought it might be instructive to see just what that “conservative” organization had to say about the trial of the police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.

        April 20, 2021 Statement on Derek Chauvin Verdict
        In response to the guilty verdicts returned today in the case of State of Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin, CDAA president Vern Pierson commented: “Justice was served today. The California District Attorneys Association applauds the jurors’ decision to convict the defendant on all counts. We also congratulate the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for their unyielding and professional prosecution of this important murder case.”

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