Jury find SF officer used excessive force in beating a restrained arrestee

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A jury last week unanimously convicted a San Francisco police officer of using excessive and unnecessary force, although the San Francisco Police Department cleared the officer in an internal investigation and kept him on the streets.

In Magistrate Maria-Elena James' courtroom, the jury voted 8-0 that Police Officer Matthew Sullivan used excessive force against plaintiff Eduardo Alegrett on February 7, 2012.  Alegrett’s lawyer, Panos Lagos, told the Guardian that Alegrett was suffering a “mental crisis” when he battered a woman at 88 Perry Place.

Police arrived to arrest him and called for backup when Alegrett pretended to have a gun, a bust that Lago said was appropriate, although he disagrees with what happened next. Sullivan arrived at the scene, ordered Alegrett to get on his stomach, then repeatedly hit him in the head while Alegrett was already restrained by two officers. Lagos told us that Sullivan acted too quickly for the other officers to stop him—administering “10 strikes within two seconds.”

A SFPD spokesperson told us that Sullivan is still on street duty. When we asked if they were imposing any disciplinary actions, we were told the information was not available to the public, although the spokesperson did say the SFPD’s “investigation revealed there were no wrongdoing...and there’s no reason to penalize someone that didn’t do anything wrong.”

According to Lagos, the Bane Act and Alegrett’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the incident. The Bane Act, one of California’s civil and criminal laws related to hate crimes, “provides protection from interference by threats, intimidation, or coercion or for attempts to interfere with someone's state or federal statutory or constitutional rights.”   

Alegrett was awarded $3,200 compensation for his injuries, and his legal fees will be covered. Sullivan will also be required to pay a fine, which will be determined at a later trial.

“It’s very unusual to have this trial decision,” said Lagos.

Quantitative information regarding police brutality cases is limited. A 2013 San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints report shows that out of 727 complaints, only 43 were sustained. Out of the 43 sustained, over half were for neglect of duty, 24 percent for unwarranted action, 10 percent for "conduct reflecting discredit represented,” and 7 percent for unnecessary force.

The National Institute of Justice says “police officers should use only the amount of force necessary to control an incident, effect an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm or death.” However, there are no universal rules regulating the amount of force allowed, and officers must refer to their specific agency for force guidelines. The NIJ’s website also says that “excessive use of force is rare.”

Lagos said that the OCC  told Alegrett, when he first filed his complaint, that the case wouldn’t go to court because they saw no evidence of excessive force. We asked Lagos why this incident report managed to do what others didn’t.

“Video evidence is what made this trial different.” Two tenants, unknown to the police officers, filmed the incident on their phones.

Lagos said that the outcome of the trial should encourage police to enforce the established rules on officers’ use of force, specifically rules regarding mental breakdowns: “The SFPD has a practice of failing to train officers to recognize citizens with mental or emotional breakdowns.”

Comments

Bruce Lee had nothing on this guy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

Although they can buy the legislative and executive branches, they cannot buy San Francisco juries out from under San Franciscans.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

Helps me sleep at night.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 9:50 am

I wonder how much he will give to the woman he battered? She is the real victim here. If this guy hadn't beaten her up, perhaps the police wouldn't have needed to intervene...

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 8:07 am

It's OK to beat up women, but if a cop smacks you around for it, that's wrong.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 8:20 am

The perp could be let off with beating served. The cop would have administered punishment early but correctly. Everybody wins!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 9:09 am

So much for the 8th. Amendment. You would have probably like to live in Adolf Hitler Germany where corporal punishment and death were the ways in which justice was administered.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

What makes you so perfect, so immaculate and free of sin that you can start calling someone a “perv”? The man never beat up that woman. According to her own written account of the incident she very clearly stated that: “(he) slapped my glasses of my face”; nothing else. The woman never showed any signs indicating that she had sustained any injuries due to the alleged battery; The woman never presented any scratches, lacerations, bruises, swelling, bumps or pain.
Next time, remember this:

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2.
I will pray for your soul.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2014 @ 11:03 am

Odd takeway, Chromefields, where did you see anything in this article excusing his actions? We even quoted his lawyer saying he deserved to be arrested and punished. What he did was wrong -- and what this cop did was also wrong. 

Posted by steven on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 11:02 am

Steven, I thought you were committed to not promoting people who did not cleave to your ideals because it would reward bad conduct.

What's the deal with your promoting Chromefields?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 11:32 am

The comment--as it now reads anyway--could be seen as "feeding the trolls" only in the most aggressive sense of the term.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 29, 2014 @ 5:59 am

It's about telling the truth

You are obsessed with trolling only because you are a troll. The rest of us do not care. We seek information and amusement.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 29, 2014 @ 9:11 am

“Beat Up?”; “What Beat Up?” According to the woman’s, the alleged victim, initial report, written in her own words, this man “grabbed her glasses”; that’s all she said. She never reported having any pain, bruises, marks, not even a scratch in her entire body. In fact, during the Preliminary Hearing (criminal case 2012), this same woman, the alleged battered victim, was the one person whose testimony, under oath, ended up implicating Officer Sullivan with the illicit act of “excessive and unjustified use of force”. The defendant in that case, the man, was never found guilty of battering this woman or anybody else on that day. Please, go check the facts before you post your callous and hideous opinions about someone who you don’t even know or care.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2014 @ 8:58 pm

This is a good question; “I wonder how much he will give to the woman he battered?”

The Answer:

The man was initially charged with a misdemeanor battery on the person of that woman, but he was never found guilty, in a Court of Law, of doing so. According to the alleged victim, the woman, in her written statement to the police, statement written 45 minutes after the incident took place, she wrote that “(he) slapped my glasses of my face”; nothing else, there was not beating up. The woman never, ever, showed any signs indicating that she had sustained any injuries due to the alleged battery. There were no scratches, lacerations, bruises, swelling, bumps or pain. Remember, one can always be charged with any offense, but the illicit act must be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, in order for a jury to render a guilty verdict; and that was not the case with this man. Therefore, being innocent of the charge, he does not have to pay any “victim indemnification” to the alleged victim.

Now, on the order hand, Officer Mathew Sullivan was found guilty of three counts, by a Jury of his peers, in a Federal Court of Law. Officer Sullivan is guilty of police brutality, while violating the plaintiff basic constitutional rights, as well as, guilty of acting with “Malice and Wanton Disregard”. This is why, even though, the plaintiff indicated that he was not suing for the money but to establish a precedent that could serve as a detriment for future police abuses, the Court demanded that some money should be pay to the plaintiff.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2014 @ 10:51 am

This is a good question; “I wonder how much he will give to the woman he battered?”

The Answer:

The man was initially charged with a misdemeanor battery on the person of that woman, but he was never found guilty, in a Court of Law, of doing so. According to the alleged victim, the woman, in her written statement to the police, statement written 45 minutes the incident took place, she wrote that “(he) slapped my glasses of my face”; nothing else, there was not beating up. The woman never, ever, showed any signs indicating that she had sustained any injuries due to the alleged battery. There were no scratches, lacerations, bruises, swelling, bumps or pain. Remember, one can always be charged with any offense, but the illicit act must be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, in order for a jury to render a guilty verdict; and that was not the case with this man. Therefore, being innocent of the charge, he does not have to pay any “victim indemnification” to the alleged victim.

Now, on the order hand, Officer Mathew Sullivan was found guilty of three counts, by a Jury of his peers, in a Federal Court of Law. Officer Sullivan is guilty of police brutality, while violating the plaintiff basic constitutional rights, as well as, guilty of acting with “Malice and Wanton Disregard”. This is why, even though, the plaintiff indicated that he was not suing for the money but to establish a precedent that could serve as a detriment for future police abuses, the Court demanded that some money should be pay to the plaintiff.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2014 @ 10:50 am

Officer Sullivan made about $160,000 last year. Like all police and public employees, he is hugely underpaid so must take out his frustration on the public.

http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2012

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 9:14 am

It would be better if psychos could beat ,rape, and murder anyone they liked?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2014 @ 10:34 am

As long as you're just having a mental crisis, it's fine. You can do whatever you like.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 6:13 am

San Francisco cops need to be paid 4 times as much as their brothers in the NYPD make. If they're not, then clearly psychos will be able to do whatever they like.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

Isabel,

Thanks for reporting on this story. However, your word choice is confusing. At the beginning of your story, you said that the jury "convicted" the officer. That term refers to a criminal case. This was a civil case. The jury found for the plaintiff and ruled against the officer, but the officer was *not* convicted.

Tim

Posted by Tim Bracken on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 10:07 am

“Beat Up?”; “What Beat Up?” According to the woman’s, the alleged victim, initial report, written in her own words, this man “grabbed her glasses”; that’s all she said. She never reported having any pain, bruises, marks, not even a scratch in her entire body. In fact, during the Preliminary Hearing (criminal case 2012), this same woman, the alleged battered victim, was the one person whose testimony, under oath, ended up implicating Officer Sullivan with the illicit act of “excessive and unjustified use of force”. The defendant in that case, the man, was never found guilty of battering this woman or anybody else on that day. Please, go check the facts before you post your callous and hideous opinions about someone who you don’t even know or care.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

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