By Alex Jimenez
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against a police officer a year ago when he was arrested after allegedly beating his girlfriend—but three months later a case was filed by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin after a similar incident in San Francisco.
An opinion piece written by the San Francisco Examiner’s Gil Duran chronicles Sacramento District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert’s scramble to follow Boudin’s lead, although Schubert has been highly critical of Boudin’s work and supports his recall.
Last May, Sacramento police Officer Justin Shepard was arrested “after his girlfriend alleged he hit her, strangled her, pointed a gun at her and also threatened to kill her and dispose of her body in a Northern California lake,” said Duran’s piece.
At the time Schubert, a former Republican now running as an independent for California Attorney General, declined to file charges.
Three months later, a similar incident occurred in San Francisco, “a city with a DA who Schubert loves to attack as weak on crime,” noted Duran.
On Aug. 6, police responded to a reported domestic violence incident at a Marriott Marquis hotel. The victim was Shepard’s girlfriend who appeared distraught and was found with a bloody mouth; she reported that Shepard was a police officer who was previously arrested in Sacramento for attacking her.
“The victim was visibly upset and crying and appeared confused as to what to do,” wrote an SFPD officer in an incident report. “She provided some insight with prior issues with the male and said she has unsuccessfully (been) able to obtain help with her efforts with Sacramento PD with prior incidents.”
SFPD was able to obtain a warrant and arrested Shepard, and on Aug 12. the San Francisco DA Office filed charges.
Later that month, Schubert’s office reversed itself, and decided to charge Shepard for the May incident and requested San Francisco to cede jurisdiction back to Sacramento, a request that was denied by Boudin’s office.
When asked about the decision to deny the request, the San Francisco DA’s Office told the Vanguard that they “filed domestic violence charges before Sacramento did—even though their crime happened first, they had not filed any charges against him until days after we did. As a result, we wanted to make sure that we retain jurisdiction to ensure that he is held accountable for this domestic violence crime and is not treated as above the law simply because he is an officer.”
“Your office decided not to charge Mr. Shepard for a May 6, 2021 domestic violence incident that occurred in Sacramento County,” wrote SF Deputy DA Evanthia Pappas to Sacramento Deputy DA Sam Nong on March 15.
According to documents obtained by the Examiner, the victim detailed the abusive relationship she had with Shepard, claiming he physically abused her six times over the course of a year.
“He has tackled me, he has grabbed me by my throat, he has made me pass out, he has slammed my head down,” she told officers. “He will grab (me) by the arm and slam me into the wall.”
The victim also told police that Shepard had pointed a gun at her several times and, when she was pregnant, he threatened to kill her if she didn’t get an abortion.
“He said he would hunt me down in Redding and throw my body in Whiskeytown Lake,” she told officers, according to police reports. “He has told me he will hire a gang banger from Del Paso Heights or wherever he works, he’s like, do you know what 5 grand will get you? And then he told me he would have me killed by some gang banger for 5 grand.”
During the police investigation, witnesses supported the victim’s claim—one neighbor who is in law enforcement reported hearing “a lot of screaming and sort of loud thumping.”
The victim also had pictures showing her injuries and police reported finding a syringe and unknown substance and opioid pills—conforming to the victim’s allegations of Shepard’s steroid use.
Despite all the information, Schubert’s office declined to file charges initially.
Duran, in the opinion piece, questioned why Shubert had changed courses after Boudin filed charges. “Did new evidence turn up? Or did the decision to let the Shepard off the hook become politically untenable after Boudin decided to hold him accountable?” wrote Duran
Shepard’s defense counsel released a statement to the media stating in part, “On May 10, 2021, the complainant fully recanted her allegations of domestic violence against Sacramento Police Officer Justin Shepard. Further she explained that her alleged injuries were sustained in a separate accident and work-related occurrences completely unrelated to Officer Shepard.”
When asked by the Vanguard for comment, the Sacramento DA’s Office referred to a previous statement made by Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet that said the victim refused to participate as a witness in the case, and that there may not be enough evidence to move forward with the domestic violence case, according to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 1219.
Regarding the chronological events, the Sacramento DA contends the decision to file charges in August had nothing to do with Boudin, but “rather consideration of new information received by law enforcement during the course of investigating that incident which then provided sufficient evidence to support the filing of charges in the Sacramento matter.”
On National Victims’ Rights Week Shubert went on Twitter to support the recall efforts against Chesa Boudin.
But Duran writes that “if you apply her logic to her own performance as DA, she should be facing a recall instead of running for attorney general,” while noting San Francisco’s lower crime rate compared to Sacramento.