Thursday News Roundup
Inmates at SF Jail Say Deputies Forced Them to Fight Gladiator Style
Jail inmates held in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice allege sheriff’s deputies have forced them to fight “gladiator-style,” San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said today.
Adachi said today that his office was alerted to the allegedly deputy-orchestrated fights through the father of an inmate via email on March 12.
Adachi interviewed the man’s son, Ricardo Palikiko Garcia, who confirmed that he had been forced to fight twice and that the deputies were planning another fight.
Garcia, who is in his 20s, weights about 150 pounds, stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and is of Hawaiian and Phillipino descent, said he was injured in the fights and made to go up against an inmate who weighed at least twice what he does.
Garcia said San Francisco Deputy Scott Neu, as well as deputies Eugene Jones, Clifford Chiba and another deputy with the last name Staehly, made him fight inmate Stanly Harris.
Garcia said he felt he was being bullied as a result of his race and feared for his life.
Harris, an African American man who is also in his 20s and stands about 6 feet tall and weighs over 300 pounds, was interviewed by Adachi and confirmed that he was forced to fight Garcia on two separate occasions.
Three other inmates, Keith Richardson, Jonathan Christopher and Quincy Lewis, were also interviewed by a probono private investigator.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said today that he found out about the allegations this morning and that the four deputies have since been reassigned to posts where they do not interact with inmates.
Mirkarimi said that while he had never heard of such activities occurring within the jail, he did say that the seventh floor jail in the Hall of Justice is “barbaric” and should have been shut down decades ago, explaining that it is an outdated facility and that areas of the jail cannot be seen on video surveillance cameras.
He said the inmates have been moved to the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno.
Mirkarimi said that the two bailiffs who allegedly knew about these incidents but did not report their fellow deputies, Deputy Aquino and Deputy Collins, have not yet been reassigned since they were not scheduled to work today.
Mirkarimi said his office will not tolerate such behavior and invites the federal government and the U.S. Department of Justice to assist in the investigation to ensure that these allegations are fully investigated and that any biased behavior or cultural issues with the sheriff’s department are detected and corrected.
Body Found Inside Burnt Camper Van
A body burned in a fire in a camper van this morning in San Francisco’s Bayview District, a police department spokesman said today.
Officers discovered the camper van on fire at 6:46 a.m. at Ingalls Street and Van Dyke Avenue, spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. Esparza said once the fire department extinguished the fire a body was found inside.
The medical examiner’s office will determine whether the death was accidental, a suicide or a homicide, Esparza said.
Judge Partially Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Voter Approval of Waterfront Development
A San Francisco Superior Court judge is allowing a lawsuit to proceed that could invalidate a 2014 voter-approved ballot measure, known as Proposition B, which requires developers to seek approval from voters prior to construction of any project that exceeds height limits on port property.
The lawsuit, filed by the California State Lands Commission against the City and County of San Francisco, after the measure was approved in the June 2014 election, aims to invalidate the voter-approved measure that gives San Franciscans a right to vote on height increases for new development on waterfront property managed by the Port of San Francisco.
On Wednesday, Judge Suzanne R. Bolanos dismissed portions of the suit, but allowed the parts dealing with state interests to proceed, according to the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
The ruling upholds the power of San Franciscans to determine building heights on the city’s waterfront, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement Wednesday.
Herrera said he is pleased that the judge dismissed the commission’s claim that the measure conflicts with the city’s charter and that judge acknowledged that the measure is consistent with the Burton Act.
“This ruling upholds the power of San Francisco and its voters over building heights on the City’s waterfront, and is in keeping with over 45 years of land use regulation in San Francisco,” Herrera said.
However, Bolanos denied the City Attorney’s motion to dismiss the entire case and she granted the State Lands Commission an opportunity to prove that the passage of Proposition B harms state interests on San Francisco’s waterfront.
Herrera said his office is prepared to show the court that Proposition B is currently not so burdensome to the Port of San Francisco as to be preempted by state law.
Jon Golinger, an activist with the group No Wall on the Waterfront, which supported Proposition B and maintains that San Franciscans deserve the right to weigh in on what gets built on their waterfront, expressed his pleasure with the judge’s ruling.
“Now the burden will be on the State Lands Commission and developers to provide the judge with facts that prove their claim that the state’s interests have been somehow undermined by reasonable height limits,” Golinger said.
“Since San Francisco voters just overwhelmingly approved the Pier 70 project’s height limit increase in November, how the state will prove its case is a mystery, but we will see,” Golinger said.
In November 2014, voters approved Proposition F, the Pier 70 Redevelopment Initiative, which allowed the developer to increase the height limits on Pier 70 from 40 feet to 90 feet.
Golinger said the developers did exactly what his group had hoped. He said the developers had a much taller proposal, they scaled it down and added affordable housing, and voters approved it.
Sheri Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the California State Lands Commission declined to comment on the judge’s motion, explaining that the Commission is unable to comment on pending litigation.