A former investigator with the District Attorney’s Office is suing DA Brooke Jenkins for tarnishing his reputation, saying she used him as a scapegoat in the dismissal of a historic homicide case against a San Francisco police officer this year.
The case would have been the first attempt to hold an officer accountable for an on-duty police shooting.
Jack Friedman, who filed a civil lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today, is seeking damages for what his suit calls “malicious and oppressive” conduct from Jenkins, his former boss. Friedman, a former Berkeley police officer, worked at the office from 2017 until he was fired in May 2023.
Friedman claims that Jenkins falsely painted him as dishonest in her decision to drop the historic prosecution against former San Francisco police officer Christopher Samayoa, who shot and killed an unarmed Keita O’Neil as he was fleeing after an alleged carjacking in the Bayview in December 2017.
The case, which was brought by former DA Chesa Boudin, marked the first time a San Francisco police officer was charged with homicide for an on-duty killing. Earlier this year, Jenkins dropped the charges against Samayoa, and has since dropped several other criminal charges against officers that were pending when Boudin left office in 2022.
“District Attorney Jenkins publicly and gratuitously blamed plaintiff Friedman for alleged misconduct in preparing an inadequate arrest warrant, [and] made untrue public statements about him,” reads the lawsuit filed this week.
Friedman was terminated by the DA’s office in May this year, after being placed on administrative leave in January. Friedman also claims the termination was retaliatory.
The suit alleges that Jenkins took away Friedman’s police powers in January, including his badge and gun; cut off his access to email and documents; and put him under a gag order, preventing him from speaking about the Samayoa case.
Shortly after, in February, Jenkins revealed her intention to drop the case, with a statement that named Friedman, claiming he had been unsure about whether to bring charges against the officer, and implying he was pressured to do so by Boudin.
Jenkins said the charges “were not filed in good faith [and] appear to be politically motivated.” She accused Friedman of being involved in bringing the purportedly inappropriate case.
Friedman, who was working at the DA’s office under Boudin, had prepared an affidavit supporting Samayoa’s arrest in November 2020 for the shooting, which demonstrated “probable cause for the arrest of Officer Samayoa” and was later signed by a San Francisco Superior Court judge, according to the lawsuit.
After Jenkins took office in 2022 and moved to drop the case against Samayoa, she alleged that Friedman did not actually believe there was probable cause to arrest Samayoa. In her eight-page statement explaining her decision, she accused Friedman of misconduct and claimed he had excluded exculpatory evidence in his affidavit.
“Friedman told me he agreed to draft the warrant, but that he was not sure if he would sign it, due to concerns about whether sufficient probable cause existed,” read the statement. “Friedman was crying during this portion … I tried to console him.”
In his lawsuit, Friedman disputed Jenkins’ allegation that he had wavered on whether there was probable cause for Samayoa’s arrest warrant.
The lawsuit also names Assistant District Attorney Darby Williams, who Jenkins appointed to head the unit that investigates police misconduct, alleging she, too, made false claims about Friedman.
The gag order, Friedman said, meant he was unable to respond to the statement at the time, despite intense public scrutiny into the Samayoa case and other police shooting prosecutions that Jenkins has dropped since taking office.
He claims that Jenkins violated his First Amendment rights by preventing him from speaking publicly about the case. He also claims Jenkins retaliated against him by firing him because of his opposition to her actions, “in violation of state law and local policy,” to justify her decision in the Samayoa case.
Friedman said he suffered physical and emotional distress, harm to his reputation as an attorney and as a police officer, and is asking for compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages for Jenkins’ harmful conduct toward him.
“This conduct was so contemptible that it would be looked down upon and despised by ordinary, decent people,” the lawsuit read.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DA Jenkins is no stranger to accusations of dishonesty and misconduct: When she left the DA’s office in October 2021 to campaign against Boudin, she shared police reports and a rap sheet with a colleague on a case that was subsequently featured in the anti-Boudin campaign. Legal experts said the move was unethical, and possibly a misdemeanor.
Then, in August, a state appeals court found she had committed prosecutorial misconduct in a murder trial by impugning the defense and improperly referencing excluded evidence.