Judge rejects gag order in SF police scandal

Judge rejects gag order in SF police scandal

Kim Curtis


SAN FRANCISCO _ A judge on Friday refused to issue a gag order in the “fajitagate” police scandal after defense lawyers said they didn’t need such an order.

In an unusual step, prosecutors, not defense lawyers, asked Judge Ksenia Tsenin to bar everyone involved in the case from talking to the media to ensure a fair trial.

Lawyers for the eight accused officers opposed the gag order. Three of the officers face felony assault charges in connection with a Nov. 20 street fight over a bag of steak fajitas and five high- ranking officers are accused of conspiring to cover up the investigation of the incident.

“I’m interested that the district attorney is very interested in our clients’ right to a fair trial,” Stuart Hanlon, who represents Deputy Chief Greg Suhr, argued in court.

He turned to District Attorney Terence Hallinan and said: “How can you say all these things for three months and then say, ‘Wait a minute. There’s too much publicity?’ We have a duty to our clients to make it an even playing field.”

Hallinan began complaining about the department’s handling of the investigation just a few days after the incident.

“Your office has had the right to talk about this,” said Tsenin, shortly before denying the prosecution’s request. “It’s been a one- sided show until now.”

But Hallinan insisted it was “in everybody’s best interest to tone down comments as much as possible.”

The judge disagreed, but cautioned the lawyers to not overstep their bounds. She said she was upset by portions of the grand jury transcripts that were leaked to the media and appeared to favor the defense.

In the meantime, the police department continued to fend off criticism that Alex Fagan Sr. shouldn’t be allowed to run it.

Fagan returned to work Wednesday, a day after he was cleared of a conspiracy charge. He now oversees an embattled department in which eight officers, including his 23-year-old son, still face criminal charges.

Chief Earl Sanders, also cleared of a conspiracy charge, remained on paid medical leave Friday.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2003

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