A judge today imposed sanctions on the city after the San Francisco Police Department did not disclose three interviews with officers the day after the October 2019 beating of civilian Dacari Spiers — including an interview with Officer Terrance Stangel, who is currently being criminally charged for that beating.
U.S. District Court Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley today ruled that the city and the police withheld evidence in a manner “tantamount to bad faith.”
She ordered that the city must pay $2,300 in attorney fees to Spiers’s lawyers, Curtis Briggs and Jamir Davis, who discovered the withheld interviews months after Spiers filed a civil suit against the city.
“There is no dispute that Defendant did not disclose evidence … And the failure to disclose was not inadvertent; it was part of admitted SFPD policy,” reads today’s ruling.
This comes only weeks after Police Chief Bill Scott accused San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his office of withholding evidence in the criminal trial of Officer Stangel. Despite the judge in the criminal case ruling that the evidence in question was duplicative and would not have affected the case, Scott leveraged the situation to unilaterally withdraw from a use-of-force agreement between the police and the District Attorney, citing distrust.
Spiers, who suffered two broken bones after Stangel struck him eight times with a metal baton in October 2019, sued the city of San Francisco. In August 2021, the city attorney reached a $700,000 settlement with Spiers, and the Board of Supervisors approved that settlement in February 2022.
But the undisclosed interviews with the police officers — each taken just a day after Spiers’s beating — weren’t discovered by Spiers’s attorneys until months after the settlement was finalized.
In December 2021, Spiers’s attorneys filed a second suit on behalf of Spiers’s former girlfriend, Breonna Richard, who was on-scene at the October 2019 beating. When the attorneys asked Lt. Brendan O’Connor to testify in Richard’s case, O’Connor mentioned three interviews with the responding officers — Stangel, Officer Cuauhtémoc Martínez, and Officer Joshua Cabillo — none of which had been disclosed during Spiers’s lawsuit.
“The gist of it is, the matter was settled in August and in December we found out there was additional evidence that was never disclosed,” attorney Jamir Davis told Mission Local.
The interviews were disclosed in a confidential San Francisco Police Department Investigative Services Detail. “As a matter of practice, SFPD does not disclose records contained in an open SFPD ISD investigations because disclosure of those records may negatively impact the pending criminal investigation or any pending related matters brought by SFDA IIB,” a police representative stated in the court documents.
While Judge Corley concurred that it is appropriate in certain cases to “modify a discovery request” to protect an ongoing criminal investigation, she added that there’s no excuse for not revealing that the “evidence exists at all.”
The judge added that Spiers’s attorneys had a right to make sure the City Attorney received and reviewed the evidence, “lest it change Plaintiff’s settlement position.”
The judge ruled that the City Attorney, which represented the city in Spiers’s lawsuit, was not aware of the evidence either because of the police department’s actions. Once the City Attorney learned of the evidence through Spiers’s lawyers, the office obtained and shared it immediately.
At present, the jury is deliberating the verdict in Stangel’s criminal trial. It is believed to be the first criminal trial of a police officer in San Francisco for on-the-job use-of-force.