From: San Francisco Chronicle
By Jenna Lyons 5/26/16
Two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony assault counts in the Mission District beating of a fleeing auto-theft suspect in November.
Deputies Paul Wieber and Luis Santamaria stood silently in the San Francisco Hall of Justice courtroom as their attorneys entered their pleas to assault with a deadly weapon, assault under color of authority and battery.
Video released by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi a day after the Nov. 12 incident sparked national outrage. It showed Wieber and Santamaria knocking 29-year-old Stanislav Petrov to the ground in an alley, punching him and clubbing him with batons. The blows continued even when Petrov appeared to surrender with his hands on his head.
After the arraignment, Michael Rains, an attorney representing Santamaria, defended his client’s actions.
“Police use of force is disturbing,” Rains said. “That doesn’t make it illegal, and that’s the difference. The fact of the matter is use of force may well be lawful, and often it is.”
Two videos show Petrov was hit at least 30 times in 40 seconds, prosecutors wrote in court records.
“During the beating, Mr. Petrov is heard crying out and saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘Help me,’ and ‘Oh my God.’ The deputies stopped striking Mr. Petrov when other peace officers from multiple law enforcement agencies arrived,” the prosecutors wrote.
Petrov suffered a concussion and mild brain injury, deep head cuts and multiple broken bones in both hands that required surgical insertion of plates and screws, authorities said. He is now in custody in a Marin County jail on unrelated federal gun and drug charges.
Adachi said after the arraignment that Petrov’s criminal history does not justify the severity of the attack.
“In the American justice system, the police are not the judge and jury. It’s not their job to decide who should be executed on the spot or who should be beaten to death,” he said. “This is a situation where no matter who that is, they don’t deserve to be treated that way.”
An attorney for Petrov previously raised questions about why the deputies were allowed to alter their original reports after they and their attorneys viewed the surveillance video. A third deputy, Shawn Osborne, was placed on paid administrative leave after allegations emerged that he stole a gold chain and money from Petrov after the beating and gave the items to a homeless couple who had witnessed the incident.
Wieber, a three-year department veteran, and Santamaria, who has been with the agency for 14 years, also were put on paid administrative leave following the video release.
Officials said the deputies caught up with Petrov in the alley after spotting him in a stolen car and chasing him from Castro Valley and over the Bay Bridge. Petrov allegedly ran red lights and drove the wrong way down one-way streets before running out of gas and crashing.
The deputies’ reports said that Petrov had rammed two patrol cars — injuring an unidentified deputy — and that they feared he was armed, intoxicated and dangerous.
Petrov was not charged with any crimes related to the chase into San Francisco.
Chronicle staff writer Vivian Ho contributed to this report.
Jenna Lyons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: JennaJourno