By Jaxon Van Derbeken, SFGate.com Published 4:00 am, Wednesday, August 6, 2003
A judge declared San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders “factually innocent” today of the nowdismissed indictment accusing him of conspiring to obstruct justice in the investigation of a street brawl involving three off-duty officers.
Sanders, 65, embraced his wife and applauding supporters after the ruling and declared that “truth has won out.”
The order by Judge Kay Tsenin of San Francisco Superior Court means that police records of Sanders’ arrest, including his mug shot, will be destroyed.
Sanders’ attorney, Phil Ryan, said court papers that District Attorney Terence Hallinan filed declaring that he wouldn’t fight Sanders’ request did not actually declare the chief innocent. Ryan also stressed that the prosecutors should destroy the “degrading and humiliating mug shot.” Prosecutors said today merely
that the chief was “entitled to relief,” and stopped short once again of actually declaring him innocent.
“I would like to hear that,” Tsenin told prosecutors.
In the end, Assistant District Attorney David Merin said, “He is factually innocent. That is what we are
Sanders, Assistant Chief Alex Fagan and five other police supervisors were indicted Feb. 27 on charges
they conspired to block the investigation into whether the three off-duty officers, including Fagan’s son,
assaulted two civilians on Union Street early Nov. 20.
The conspiracy indictments have all been dropped; Fagan’s son, who has since left the force, and the two
rank-and-file officers still face assault charges.
A triumphant Sanders, who has been out on medical leave since shortly after being indicted, said outside
court that he felt “wonderful” but that he was awaiting word from his doctors on whether he will ever
return to work.
“Fighting for justice is worth it,” said Sanders, surrounded by supporters. “I’m very happy that we’re to
this point, with the door open for the rest of my command staff to come out from under these bogus
Fagan has said he intends to seek such a declaration, but has filed no court papers. “I’m going to do it
when it’s appropriate,” Fagan said. “Right now, I’m busy trying to run the department.”
Sanders praised his “wonderful command staff that serves the people of this city,” adding, “I want this
touch of justice to go to them too. We’re going to see to that.”
The chief has accused the district attorney of improperly seeking to arrange a plea bargain with him for
Fagan’s son and the two officers who now face assault charges. Hallinan has denied any wrongdoing in
interviews but has never said anything about the issue in court. He also did not attend today’s hearing,
something Ryan seized on.
“District Attorney Hallinan is a coward … he will not take the witness stand,” Ryan said, pointing to “how
reluctantly and timidly he was forced by the judge to concede that chief Earl Sanders was and is factually
Hallinan’s spokesman, Mark MacNamara, said the district attorney had been attending to other matters
at the time of the hearing and would not comment on Ryan’s remarks.
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