By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Two men held in county jail here for two years awaiting trial in connection with the death of well-known political investigator Jack Palladino had all their charges dismissed Jan. 31 in a pretrial hearing, according to the SF Public Defender Office.
“San Francisco Superior Court has accrued a massive trial backlog since the pandemic, and continues to violate speedy trial rights by delaying trials past their statutory deadlines,” charged the PD Office, which said the court delayed the September 2021 trial nearly 18 months beyond the constitutionally-mandated deadline.
The district attorney cited lack of evidence against Lawrence Thomas and Tyjone Flournoy, who were facing murder and attempted robbery charges after an incident with Palladino Jan. 28, 2021.
The PD Office said “Palladino was in front of his house taking photos with a large camera when he encountered Thomas and Flournoy, who were driving on a block that had been closed to through traffic during the pandemic. Palladino suffered a fall directly after the encounter, and the events leading up to the fall became the major focus of court proceedings.”
Although a witness claimed Flournoy tried to steal Palladino’s camera, dragging Palladino before he fell and hit his head, the PD Office said the “statement ended up to be false and unfounded.”
The court, at an April 2021 preliminary hearing, still set trial even though the witness “admitted that he never actually saw the interaction between Palladino and the men in the car, and had only assumed that they were trying to rob him,” said Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway.
“The prosecution did the ethical thing in dismissing these charges, as none of the physical evidence corroborated the early assumptions reported by an unreliable witness…there was no DNA from the passenger found on the camera, which remained in Palladino’s possession,”” said Hathaway.
“It’s important for us, as Mr. Thomas’s legal team, to help clear his name after a flurry of misinformation was reported in the wake of Mr. Palladino’s death,” added Hathaway.
The PD Office, in a statement, argued “Thomas maintained that he drove away because Palladino was yelling at them through the passenger window and hit their car with his hand, which other witnesses also heard. After the men drove off, Palladino lost his footing and fell. He was transported to the hospital and died several days later.”
“Our defenders did the crucial work of scrutinizing the state’s evidence which led to a just dismissal, but there are hundreds of people, like these two men who just spent two years in jail, suffering the injustice of waiting for their day in court,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.
As of December 2022, Raju said, there were “838 cases past their deadlines, including 147 individuals who remained jailed without trial. Throughout the pandemic, people in SF County jail have been subjected to 23-hour lockdowns, with limited visitation and programming, and no direct sunlight.”
Palladino, an attorney and investigator, was a political fixer who, according to his biography, helped Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly and other famous clients face down scandals.
He was known for making “surreptitious recordings, deploying attractive women or posing as a journalist to extract information and discredit accusers,” according to the New York Times.