Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Two days before his scheduled preliminary hearing for killing an unarmed man in 2017, former police officer Christopher Samayoa’s defense team on Wednesday accused the District Attorney’s office of withholding evidence, and has taken steps to have the case dismissed. 

In a court filing obtained by Mission Local, the defense accuses former DA Chesa Boudin’s office of withholding evidence when it requested Samayoa’s arrest in 2020, and claims the case was brought for political purposes over the judgment of his staff.

New interviews conducted this month with former DA investigators who had been initially assigned to the case revealed that staff at the DA’s office did not believe Samayoa should be prosecuted, and said so in a PowerPoint presentation after an investigation in 2018. 

This presentation amounts to exculpatory evidence, claimed the motion filed by Samayoa’s attorney — and withholding this evidence, it continued, is prosecutorial misconduct. Samayoa’s defense team is now seeking a hearing to dismiss the homicide case.  

This means the long-awaited day in court, with a preliminary hearing slated for Jan. 27, will likely be further delayed. 

Samayoa was a rookie officer in his first week on the job when he shot Keita O’Neil — a fleeing, unarmed suspected carjacker — through the windshield of a squad car. 

O’Neil died from the single gunshot, and Samayoa was later dismissed from the San Francisco Police Department. In 2020, Samayoa became the city’s first officer to be charged with homicide for an on-duty killing. 

According to the motion filed by Samayoa’s defense attorney on Wednesday, the DA’s office conducted interviews with former DA investigators earlier this month, during which the inspectors said they believed a criminal case against Samayoa was “not prosecutable.” At the time the investigators were on the case, George Gascón was in the DA seat, and the case remained open when DA Chesa Boudin took office in 2020. 

Then, in November, 2020, the motion alleges that former DA Boudin assigned a different DA investigator to the Samayoa case, while the investigator previously on the case was on vacation. Boudin allegedly asked the newly assigned investigator to request an arrest warrant for Samayoa. 

Boudin, in a text message exchange with Mission Local on Wednesday evening, did not directly deny the allegations. 

When asked to confirm whether he assigned a different investigator to the case while the initial investigator was on vacation, Boudin replied: “If I recall correctly the inspector who wrote the arrest warrant had worked in the office long before my time.” 

Pressed again to confirm whether he brought in another investigator to replace one opposed to the prosecution, Boudin said, “No idea who the original inspector was or what their opinion was.”

Wednesday’s motion requests access to the PowerPoint presentation that was referenced in the interviews, which purportedly detailed the outcome and reasoning of an early DA investigation of the case under Gascón. 

According to the motion, the DA’s office provided summaries of the recent interviews to Samayoa’s defense attorney shortly after they happened. 

DA spokesperson Randy Quezada declined to comment. 

Wednesday’s motion appears to be part of an effort to discredit previous DA Boudin and impugn his motivation for bringing the case against Samayoa at all. Boudin was the first San Francisco DA to bring criminal charges against police officers for on-duty beatings and killings. 

Samayoa’s attorney, Michael Rains from Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, wrote in the motion that the “politically motivated” decision to charge Samayoa was based on “selective” and “arbitrary” criteria. 

Whether the argument will stand up in court remains to be seen. 

Brian Ford, an attorney representing O’Neil’s aunt and advocate, April Green, wasn’t convinced. 

“They handed [the interviews] over as soon as there was a report that could be handed over, so I don’t think there actually was Brady violation,” Ford said, referencing the law that requires disclosure of exculpatory evidence. 

And the DA’s motivation, he said, is not relevant: “A charging prosecutor ethically can charge any case [if] they believe they can establish probable cause.” 

Regardless, the move will almost certainly delay the case.

“They are bombshell allegations,” Ford said. Green and the rest of O’Neil’s family have long been waiting for movement on her nephew’s case. “She’s concerned about any prospect of delay and she’s concerned about anything that would endanger the integrity of this very righteous prosecution.” 

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. Lordy, lordy,

    The crooks control the DA and Mayor’s Offices plus City Attorney and all attendant files.

    Plus, they control all local media save Mission Local.

    What’d that guy say …

    “I got a bad feeling about this one, Verne.”

    What’d that woman say after that ?

    “Living well is the best revenge.”

    Go Niners !!


  2. the politics are making a huge mess of this. Seems the guy was running away and around cop cars that were following him, I do not understand how shooting him through your own window is justifiable in any way.

    1. He was a Case Manager for E.C.S at Canon Kip Housing on 8th St. & Howard St. There were only 2 of us that were shocked and horrified by this!

      He’ll never serve time. The police can do whatever they want to!!