The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to finalize $13.15 million in settlement money for two separate civil cases that cover a range of SFPD officer misconduct, including lying on the job, fabricating evidence and using excessive force.
Both cases offer a glimpse into the ways in which the words and actions of police officers could result in serious criminal convictions of apparently innocent men.
The vast majority of the money involved comes in the proposed $13.1 million settlement with Jamal Rashid Trulove, who was convicted of the 2007 murder of his friend, Seu Kuka. An appeals court overturned that conviction in 2014 after it was revealed that a prosecutor made misleading statements during the original trial.
Trulove spent 6 ½ years in prison.
In 2016, he sued the city and 10 San Francisco police officers for violating his civil rights by fabricating evidence unfavorable to him and withholding evidence that could have been beneficial to him.
The jury found that two lead homicide detectives — Michael Johnson and Maureen D’Amico — had coerced a witness into identifying Trulove as the person who shot Kuka in the city’s Sunnydale Housing Projects. The investigators allegedly failed to pursue another suspect and continued to use Trulove’s picture during an interview even though the witness had previously ruled him out.
The jury ultimately awarded Trulove $10 million, plus attorneys fees, making his initial award $14.5 million. Soon after, the city filed an appeal, but Trulove and the city ultimately agreed to settle that appeal for the $13.1 million, said one of Trulove’s attorneys, Alex Reisman.
“As Jamal has said, this is never going to make up for the six and half years of doing serious time,” Reisman said.
“There are a lot of cases where there’s a wrongful conviction,” he added. “It’s an unusual case where the jury saw through the situation and they’re making [the city] pay.”
The Board of Supervisors is also set to award $50,000 to Brandon Simpson, who was beaten by four police officers in the Tenderloin in 2015 after peacefully walking away from an apparent dice game.
At 11 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2015, police rolled up to a group of men standing on the corner of Taylor and Eddy, according to Simpson’s complaint. The men began to disperse, and Simpson casually started walking away. That’s when the four officers joined in tackling Simpson and beating him while he was on the ground. The officers later found a gun near Simpson’s prone body.
During a criminal trial concerning Simpson’s possession of that gun, Officer Nicholas Buckley testified under oath that Simpson repeatedly evaded him, ran away from him and the other officers, placed his hand near his waistband, and walked in a way that suggested he was concealing a weapon.
Video evidence that came to light during the trial, however, showed Buckley grabbing Simpson from behind and proceeding with the other three officers to beat him.
After granting prosecutors’ request to drop the gun-related charges against Simpson in May 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said: “The worst thing in the world is the prosecution and conviction of an innocent person, or a conviction based on perjured testimony.”
As a result of the video, a judge dropped the gun-related charges against Simpson and ordered federal prosecutors to turn over material to the SFPD to internally investigate and possibly discipline Buckley.
The SFPD has not yet responded to inquiries regarding what, if any, consequences Buckley faced.
Update 1:20 p.m.: “There is an open investigation [into Buckley] and it is a personnel matter,” said SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak. “Officer Buckley is assigned to the Special Operations Bureau in a non-public contact position.”