San Francisco police chief Earl Sanders has asked a judge to erase all traces of the criminal conspiracy charges the prosecutor obtained against the chief but then dropped for lack of evidence, the Los Angeles Times says. Sanders wants an order destroying records related to charges that he obstructed the investigation into a brawl involving three off-duty officers over a bag of steak fajitas.
The filing is one of the most bitter broadsides in a case that has pitted the department’s first black chief against Terence Hallinan, a fiery liberal district attorney. Sanders argued that his reputation built during nearly 40 years of police work was unfairly tarnished by a prosecutor who magnified a street fight into a scandal to enhance his reelection chances this fall.
Sanders alleged that Hallinan had improperly tried to get him to broker a deal with the officers involved in the beating case. He said Hallinan suggested on Dec. 2, 2002, that the officers could enter pleas to a misdemeanor charge. Joseph Russoniello, a former U.S. attorney now dean of San Francisco Law School, said Hallinan’s overture, if described accurately, was unethical: “The district attorney is attempting to use the influence of the chief as a superior to three criminal defendants to encourage them to plead to cheap charges in exchange for a prosecutorial decision to terminate an investigation.”