From: LA Times
By: Gregory Yee, 03/07/2022
A San Francisco police officer has been found not guilty of three felony counts in what is believed to be the first excessive-force trial for an on-duty officer in the city’s history, according to authorities.
Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin said Monday that a jury found Officer Terrance Stangel not guilty on one count each of battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.
The jury could not reach a verdict on the fourth count, assault under color of authority, Boudin’s office said.
“We respect the jury process, although we remain disappointed that police accountability remains so elusive and difficult to achieve,” Boudin said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing to hold those who commit harm accountable — regardless of the uniform they may wear or the badge they may carry. No one should be above the law, and my office will continue to fight to ensure that all communities are safe.”
On the evening of Oct. 6, 2019, Stangel and another officer, Cuauhtemoc Martinez, responded to a 911 call alleging that a man was assaulting a woman, prosecutors said.
At the scene, they were directed to Dacari Spiers, who was on a date with his girlfriend at Fisherman’s Wharf, prosecutors said.
“It is undisputed that officers did not observe any physical violence or unlawful conduct by either of them,” Boudin’s office said.
The officers’ body cameras recorded much of the incident and showed Martinez ordering Spiers to “get over here” and to “face the wall,” according to the statement.
Martinez tried to grab Spiers, who said he hadn’t done anything, prosecutors said. The officers also ignored the man’s girlfriend who was yelling “no” and “what did he do?”
Stangel hit Spiers seven or eight times with a metal baton, including five times while the man was on the ground in the fetal position, according to the statement.
“Officer Stangel broke Mr. Spiers’s wrist and leg, requiring surgery to repair,” prosecutors said. “Mr. Spiers also suffered numerous lacerations to his legs that required stitches. Following the attack, he was forced to use a wheelchair during his recovery.”
Spiers “was not observed committing any illegal act” and was not arrested, the district attorney’s office said in a December 2020 statement announcing the charges against Stangel.
The San Francisco Police Officers Assn. said it was satisfied with the trial’s outcome.
“We are pleased that this jury focused on the facts, evidence, and the law and was not distracted by other factors in reaching their not guilty verdicts on three of the four charges before them,” Tracy McCray, the association’s acting president, said in a statement.
“With this trial’s conclusion, we must stay focused on addressing San Francisco’s rising crime and drug epidemic so everyone can feel safe in their own neighborhoods,” she added.
In February, the city and county of San Francisco agreed to pay Spiers $700,000 to settle a lawsuit, prosecutors said.
On March 1, a federal judge ordered the city and county to pay Spiers’ attorney $2,300 in legal fees after she found that the Police Department withheld evidence in Spiers’ federal lawsuit, according to court filings.
The judge found that the city and county, acting through the San Francisco Police Department, acted in bad faith and that “the failure to disclose was not inadvertent” but was a part of a Police Department policy, according to court filings.
A settlement in the federal case was agreed to in August, but “that the settlement is intact does not change that an abuse of the judicial process occurred,” U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley wrote in her order.
The verdicts in the criminal case come amid an effort to recall Boudin, who took office in 2020 on a broad platform of progressive reforms, and a series of conflicts between the prosecutor and police.
Last month, Boudin accused police of using a database with DNA collected from victims of rape and sexual assault to connect some of them to unrelated crimes.
The accusation came nearly two weeks after San Francisco Police Chief William Scott announced that his department would end an agreement with the district attorney’s office to cooperate on investigations of police shootings and other incidents. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said that the timing was not related and that Scott agreed to a 60-day extension of the agreement.
Scott had renewed his criticism of Boudin after an investigator in the district attorney’s office alleged she was pressured to withhold evidence in a use-of-force case against a San Francisco police officer. A judge rejected that claim, finding no relevant evidence was withheld.
That case was Stangel’s, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.