San Francisco officer found not guilty of assault after DA's office accused of withholding evidence

San Francisco police end cooperation with liberal DA on some cases

San Francisco Police Officers Association president Tony Montoya on the decision to end cooperation with DA Chesa Boudin on police shooting cases.

A San Francisco jury on Monday found a police officer facing four counts of assault and battery charges not guilty after four days of deliberation.

District Attorney (DA) Chesa Boudin, who first announced charges against San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Officer Terrance Stangel in December 2020, was accused of withholding evidence in the case earlier this year.

Stangel was accused of unnecessarily beating a Black man named Dacari Spiers with a baton in October 2019, breaking Spiers’ wrist and leg, while responding to a domestic violence call.

“We are thankful that the jury was able to see through the dishonesty of the DA’s office in this case and see it for what it was – unjust and unsupported,” Stangel’s attorney, Nicole Pifari, said in a statement Monday evening following the verdict in a San Francisco Superior Court. “Everyone should be deeply concerned about this case, about this District Attorney, and about the rule of law in San Francisco.”

Police officer Terrance Stangel, second from the left, enters Department 27 at the Hall of Justice with his attorney Nicole Pifari on Monday, March 7, 2022, in San Francisco, California. (Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Judge Teresa Caffese declared a mistrial on the fourth count, assault under color of authority, after nine jurors found Stangel not guilty while three found him guilty, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It is unclear if prosecutors will refile the charge.

Boudin thanked the jury “for their careful consideration of this case over the course of four full days of deliberation” in a Monday statement.

“We respect the jury process, although we remain disappointed that police accountability remains so elusive and difficult to achieve,” he said. “I am committed to continuing to hold those who commit harm accountable – regardless of the uniform they may wear or the badge they may carry. No one should be above the law, and my office will continue to fight to ensure that all communities are safe.”

San Francisco Police Officers Association Acting President Tracy McCray, right, and Kevin Martin. (Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The verdict comes more than a month after an investigator for the DA’s office, Megan Hayashi, testified on Jan. 28 that she felt she would be fired if she did not withhold certain evidence in the case against Stangel, NBC Bay Area reported at the time.

Hayashi told Caffese that she never disclosed information from a female witness who claimed to see Spiers beating a woman before Stangel hit him with a baton and that she feared she would be fired if she did, according to the outlet. 

Pifari filed a motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 24, citing “prosecutorial misconduct” and “deceptive” methods by the DA’s office. 

The memo in support of the motion to dismiss filed by Pifari includes a transcript from the witness to 911, which is what initially led police to respond to the 2019 incident.

Police officer Terrance Stangel, center, and lawyer Nicole Pifari enter the courtroom at the Hall of Justice on Feb. 8, 2022, in San Francisco, California. (Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The call transcript reads as follows: “I would like to report … I think it’s called domestic violence or something because, um, there’s this guy who is beating up on this girl. … He’s like, um, holding her like by the neck, like draggin’ her by the neck. … She was trying to get away, then he grabbed, and then he got her again.”

A second witness described similar details in a statement, including in Pifari’s motion.

Boudin prematurely labeled one of the witnesses as a “racially-biased Karen,” according to FOX 2 San Francisco.

“The citizens of San Francisco should be asking themselves why Chesa Boudin would come out of the starting gate [labeling] the two African American women who called 911 as ‘Karen Callers,’” Pifari said in her statement. “… If Chesa Boudin is willing to break and bend the law as many times as his office did in this case, everyone should be afraid.”

Spiers filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Francisco in February 2020, which states that he was “consoling his girlfriend about the theft” of her wallet before the attack, “and the two were leaning against the car and were engaged in hugging and kissing each other.”

The lawsuit then alleges that two or more officers approached Spiers at that moment and abruptly grabbed him. Spiers and his girlfriend begged the officers to stop, and he was left with “horrendous blows with his hands and wrists, which caused severe injuries, including a severely broken wrist,” the complaint states. Spiers accused the city of violating his civil rights.

On March 2, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley granted Spiers’ motion to sanction the city and county of San Francisco for withholding evidence from Spiers.

Video footage of the incident released last year shows a chaotic scene in which Spiers questions officers’ use of force, saying he didn’t do anything.

Stangel was acquitted of felony charges, including battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. He faced up to seven years in prison, according to the Chronicle. 

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