SAN FRANCISCO Appeals court voids charges against police in teen's
SAN FRANCISCO Appeals court voids charges against police in teen's
Posted by: "jaysonw2002" jayson.wechter@... jaysonw2002
Wed Jan 17, 2007 1:33 pm (PST) SAN FRANCISCO
Appeals court voids charges against police in teen's death
Ruling says the city waited too long after 1998 incident to file
complaints against the 4 officers
- Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A state appeals court ordered dismissal of disciplinary charges
Tuesday against four San Francisco police officers accused of
misconduct in the fatal shooting of a teenage girl, saying the city
had waited too long to file the charges.
The First District Court of Appeal did not address the Office of
Citizen Complaints' claim that two of the officers had fired their
guns without justification and that all four lied during the
investigation of the May 1998 shooting of 17-year-old Sheila Detoy.
Instead, the court said the city had missed the one-year deadline for
disciplinary cases during a long wrangle between then-Police Chief
Fred Lau and the department's civilian overseers.
In a separate ruling, the court allowed disciplinary charges to
proceed against five other San Francisco officers over a confrontation
in Hunters Point five years ago in which one of the officers, Nicholas
Bettencourt, allegedly used racial slurs when speaking to an African
American woman who was protesting her daughter's treatment.
In that case, the court said the one-year deadline was extended by a
civil suit against the officers that was still pending when the
disciplinary charges were filed in April 2003.
In the 1998 incident, the four officers -- Gregory Breslin, Michael
Moran, Peter Siragusa and James Zerga -- went to a Lake Merced
apartment complex to arrest a suspected drug dealer, Raymondo Cox.
They saw Cox get into a car driven by Michael Negron. Breslin and
Moran said Negron had driven at them as they tried to block the car in
the driveway, and said they had fired in self-defense.
One of Breslin's bullets hit Detoy, a passenger, who was not a suspect.
Negron pleaded guilty to manslaughter in causing Detoy's death. The
district attorney's office found no criminal wrongdoing by the
officers. But the Office of Citizen Complaints, the city's police
watchdog agency, conducted an investigation and recommended
disciplinary charges against Breslin and Moran, for firing without
justification, and against all four officers for allegedly
misrepresenting the facts to investigators and in court testimony.
Lau, the police chief, opposed the charges, but was eventually ordered
to file them by the city's Police Commission in June 2002.
Superior Court Judge James Warren refused to dismiss the charges in
2005, saying the one-year deadline had been extended by the criminal
investigation, the involvement of multiple agencies and a civil suit
by Detoy's mother against Breslin and the city, which was settled for
$505,000 in November 2000.
But the appeals court, in a 3-0 ruling, said the city had no valid
excuse for the delay. The court said the Police Commission had
authority over both Lau and the Office of Citizen Complaints and could
have ordered them to coordinate their efforts so that the charges
could have been filed more quickly.
The one-year deadline was set by state law "to encourage the diligent
investigation and charging of police officers alleged to have engaged
in misconduct,'' said Justice Timothy Reardon.
E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@....
©2007 San Francisco Chronicle
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Suspects as Usual / NYPD opened a surprising investigation--into th
Posted by: "Iolmisha@..." Iolmisha@... isfonelove
Wed Jan 17, 2007 1:34 pm (PST) The Sean Bell Shooting -- 'Suspects as Usual'
Date: 1/14/2007 6:49:00 PM Pacific Standard Time
Received from Internet: click here for more information
Suspects as Usual
After the Sean Bell shooting, the NYPD opened a
surprising investigation--into the victims
by Sean Gardiner
January 9th, 2007 1:09 PM
Thirteen hours after Sean Bell was killed and his two
friends were wounded in a barrage of 50 bullets, Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly held a press conference to
explain what led to his cops shooting the unarmed men
in their car.
During his detailed description of the November 25 pre-
dawn shooting on Liverpool Street, near a Queens strip
joint, Kelly noted, "There may have been a fourth
individual in the car who fled." Even as he said it,
there were two investigations under way: There was the
standard probe by the Queens district attorney's office
and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau into the
shooting, but there was also a separate investigation
by police bent on finding this "fourth man" and
clearing their brethren, whatever the cost.
In the days following the shooting, even as city
officials were assuring community and religious leaders
of a fair and thorough investigation, the three men's
criminal records, including some sealed juvenile cases,
were leaked to the press in what their attorneys said
was an effort to "dirty up the victims." Police raided
apartments in the complex where one of the men lives
and another used to hang out. As many as a dozen
friends and acquaintances were taken into custody and
questioned. Police officials claim any arrests in what
some describe as a "parallel investigation" were
coincidental. It was an attempt at spin that spun out
"There was about 72 hours where it was just insane. . .
. It was cops gone wild," said attorney Charlie King,
who represents, at last count, 11 people questioned by
police in the aftermath.
Allegations of such parallel investigations are not
new. In fact, historically, the police response after
cops shoot unarmed people appears to come from the same
blueprint--look at Diallo, look at Dorismond, or go way
back and look at the case of little Clifford Glover.
The Sean Bell case introduced a twist: a mysterious,
gun-wielding man who fled the scene. Call it the Fourth
Ideally for the NYPD's reputation, the hunt for a
fourth man would have yielded a gun at the scene and
thus help exonerate the five officers who fired the
shots that killed Bell, who was to be married later
that day, and wounded his friends Trent Benefield and
Joseph Guzman, who had been at his bachelor party at
the Kalua Cabaret just before the shooting.
It now appears that there was no fourth man, but that
doesn't mean the search for him--or, more to the point,
for an excuse--was entirely in vain.
"The immediate advantage of it is, if at the outset of
public conversation about the event you plant in
people's minds that there was a fourth man or a gun and
sometimes that sticks," said Christopher Dunn,
associate legal director of the New York Civil
Liberties Union. "In a way, they're framing public
discussion about it so that it deflects blame away from
Descriptions of the so-called fourth man began to
emerge in media reports immediately after the shooting.
The fourth man could've been in or near the car. Maybe
he was armed with a gun. He could've been wearing a
beige jacket. His nickname might be "M.O." or maybe
Five days after the shooting, the raids and hours of
interviews provided police with the identification of
someone who was supposed to be this mystery man. At
about 8:30 p.m. on November 30, detectives approached a
27-year-old man named Jean Nelson outside a Jamaica
housing complex as hardscrabble as its nickname-- "the
Nerves were already raw. There had been a number of
clashes between residents and members of the press.
When a police helicopter hovered overhead, people
screamed at it and flipped it the bird. An impromptu
shrine to Bell, growing by the minute with additions of
poetry, stuffed animals, and bottles of Hennessy,
stoked emotions. Some people wore T-shirts emblazoned
with Bell's image. A few muttered about violence
Nevertheless, detectives barreled into the midst of
this scene and demanded that Nelson come with them.
By then, Charlie King had met with Queens D.A.
officials, and it was agreed that the men, including
Nelson, who were with Bell the night he was killed
would cooperate with their investigation as long as the
police weren't involved. (King didn't want the police
to be able to tailor their grand jury testimony to the
men's statements.) King said he also received what he
called a "blanket assurance" from the D.A. that his
clients wouldn't be "hassled or intimidated" by police.
When Nelson spotted the detectives coming for him, he
quickly dialed King's number. The attorney said he told
Nelson to put a detective on the line and told the cop
about the agreement with the D.A. King said he added,
"He's not to talk to the police. You are to leave my
client alone." He gave the detective phone numbers for
the D.A. and a police supervisor and told him to check
it out himself.
"Hold on," King said the detective told him. But 20
seconds later, he was back on the phone and told King,
"We're taking him in. We have our orders."
"What's the charge?" King shot back.
"We don't have to tell you that," the detective said
and then hung up. When King dialed Nelson's number, no
one picked up.
Irate, King called Charlie Testagrossa, the Queens
D.A.'s deputy executive assistant district attorney for
major crimes, and lit into him.
"How do you expect people to cooperate with you if you
can't assure us that they're going to be free from
police harassment?" King fumed.
Technically, Nelson wasn't under arrest. He wasn't
handcuffed. He later told the Voice he didn't want to
go, but he got into the unmarked car anyway. They're
the police, after all.
At the precinct, Nelson said, detectives asked him what
he saw the night of the shooting. "Just tell us right
now," he recalled their saying, "and you'll be able to
leave in 10 minutes, and you won't have to wait for
your lawyer." They asked him if he was on Liverpool
Street when the shooting happened. He didn't tell
police this, but he was. And so were several friends
who were at the bachelor party, though none was close
enough to Bell's car to qualify as the so-called fourth
When Nelson continued to defer all questions to his
lawyer, a lieutenant taunted, "What do you have a
lawyer for if you didn't do anything?" Nelson said he
didn't take the bait.
About 30 minutes after being brought in, the
questioning abruptly stopped, and Nelson was released.
King said he thinks it was because the D.A.'s office
"I've been floored and shocked at the police
department's conduct on the local level," said King, an
Ivy League-educated attorney from Rockland County who
has made unsuccessful election runs for lieutenant
governor and state attorney general but is a neophyte
when it comes to cases of possible NYPD misconduct. "It
changed my view forever of the kind of power that
police have and how they can use it at cross-purposes
to investigate what's the truth."
Having grown up right here in Jamaica, Nelson wasn't
shocked. He said he recognized it for what it was: an
attempt "to justify what can't be justified."
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