Henry K. Lee
A former San Leandro police officer groped a woman during a traffic stop after she repeatedly rebuffed his romantic overtures over a period of months, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Officer Greg Cannedy asked personal questions of Starlah Burke, told her “he and his wife were not in love” and continually showed up at Burke’s home and called her between May and December 2005 to discuss the possibility of engaging in sexual contact, Burke said in a civil lawsuit.
The suit, filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, names Cannedy, the city of San Leandro and Police Chief Dale Attarian. City Attorney Jayne Williams declined comment Wednesday, saying the city had not been served with the suit.
Cannedy, who retired from the department this year on disability, is awaiting trial on criminal charges of false imprisonment and attempted sexual battery, both felonies, in connection with incidents involving Burke.
Cannedy, 43, was also ordered to stand trial in March on charges of felony sexual battery, misdemeanor false imprisonment and misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly kissing and forcing a second woman to rub him over his clothing as they stood in her kitchen in September 2005. Cannedy has pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Burke said in her suit that Cannedy first stopped her near her home in May 2005 and said he wanted a romantic relationship. Burke made it clear to him that she wasn’t interested in seeing him again, the suit said.
After more unwanted contacts over the next several months, the officer pulled her over in December 2005 and touched her in “personal parts of her body against her will,” the suit said. “She told him to stop. Cannedy continued to grope at plaintiff’s breasts and hips, causing her to fear for her personal safety.”
“Use of a badge and gun to further personal interests cannot be tolerated in a civilized society,” said Burke’s attorney, Eric Safire of San Francisco.
In a rare move, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael Gaffey granted a motion in November by Cannedy’s criminal defense attorney, Michael Rains of Pleasant Hill, requesting that the state attorney general’s office prosecute the former officer instead of the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
Rains said local prosecutors were considering calling a female employee from their office as a witness against Cannedy. That woman accused Cannedy in 2006 of inappropriately kissing and touching her in 2002 or 2003, but she wasn’t named as a victim in the criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, court records show.
Cannedy had served as the “D.A. liaison,” the officer who brought cases from the Police Department to prosecutors for review, and Rains argued that he was essentially a member of the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors, however, argued they could fairly prosecute the case and they rejected assertions that Cannedy was a member of their office.
Rains said Wednesday that he’s confident his client will be vindicated. He called Cannedy’s alleged actions “inappropriate, but hardly felonious, conduct.”