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Former Police Union Leader Slams Late San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi

Public’s ‘coronation’ of Adachi too much

By Matthew Keys, March 5, 2019 2:15 am

The former leader of San Francisco’s police union has criticized public reaction to the death of former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, suggesting the late attorney was not deserving of the warm public accolades and media attention he received in the days following his passing.

In a Facebook post last week, former San Francisco Police Officer’s Association leader Gary Delagnes wrote the public’s “coronation” of Adachi “forced” him to break a months-long sabbatical from social media. Adachi died Feb. 22 from a suspected heart attack, local media reported at the time.

“Jeff Adachi knew no bounds when it came to the defense of his client,” Delagnes wrote, accusing the former public defender of recruiting “hundreds” of homeless people to attend San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ meetings during budget negotiations and “directing his attorneys to have their clients make baseless complaints against police officers in an attempt to harm their ability to testify,” among other things.

“This is a guy who as recently as two months ago declared that people should not be prosecuted for auto break ins because they just needed things and this was their only way to get it,” Delagnes claimed, referring to a statement Adachi made in response to proposed legislation that would have made some car burglaries felonious crimes.

Last November, Adachi said that bill — introduced by former San Francisco Supervisor and current State Sen. Scott Weiner — was “pure fantasy” and that some people who burglarized cars were doing it “for basic survival.” Adachi did not say it was the only means for those people to obtain basic necessities.

Haven't been on Facebook for a couple of years but the coronation of Jeff Adachi had forced me to weigh in. In my 35…

Posted by Gary Delagnes on Thursday, February 28, 2019

Under Adachi’s leadership, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office had a strongly-contentious relationship with local law enforcement officials and the groups that represented them. Adachi was no stranger to calling out officers accused of misconduct and other issues he considered to be textbook cases of miscarriages of justice while at the same time representing people and spearheading causes that made some in the police community cringe.

Likewise, law enforcement groups — including the SFPOA — were not shy about criticizing Adachi for his positions and tactics. The former public defender was a frequent target of blog entries and digital journals published by the SFPOA calling Adachi out for statements he made during press conferences and at trial that painted police officers in a bad light. In one journal published by the SFPOA last June, Adachi was described as a “clown” and “puppeteer” who engineered anti-police sentiment at a party held with other elected officials.

Some of those critics may now be using Adachi’s death to get back at him for what they felt were years of public shaming and smearing through a concerted effort of public shaming and smearing of their own — one that includes co-opting members of the local television news media into publishing speculative pieces concerning Adachi’s final hours.

Just one day after his death, ABC station KGO-TV said it obtained a police report that described an emergency phone call placed by a woman that triggered a police response to an apartment on Telegraph Place near Coit Tower. A call from the city’s medical examiner’s office initially led to the response being called off, though officers continued a short time later to the apartment after deeming the call “suspicious,” KGO reported.

The police report was used for a detailed story produced by KGO investigative reporter Dan Noyes that included, among other things, crime scene photographs from the apartment in question. Additional follow-up reports by KGO and rival station KRON-TV contained more information based on records and materials leaked by unidentified sources, including details that the bed in the apartment where Adachi’s body was found was “unmade” and that liquor bottles were present at the scene.

Since the reports, law enforcement officials have confirmed Adachi’s death is the basis of an ongoing investigation while adding they do not suspect “foul play” was involved.

Normally, records related to an ongoing law enforcement investigation would be exempt from disclosure under California’s public records law. Some have speculated that the leaks of reports, crime scene photos and related materials to Noyes and other reporters may be part of an orchestrated attempt by police officials to smear Adachi since law enforcement personnel would normally be in control of those records immediately after someone dies.

In a lengthy Twitter conversation over the weekend, Noyes refused to disclose whether police officers were leaking to him, saying he was not inclined to “reveal sources.” Noyes, who took exception when a screen shot of Delagnes’ comments were posted to Twitter, said his reports were based on “facts about a public official” while Delagnes’ comments contained “sensitive [information] and unsubstantiated rumors.”

Some Twitter users noted the Noyes’ apparent contradictory positions over Delagnes’ comments compared to his own reports over the last two weeks.

“Reposting Delagnes’ insane ramblings is awful,” a Twitter user identified as “Tamara” wrote, “but the guy who published leaked photos of a death scene now clutching his pearls about sensitive info is pretty rich.”

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a newspaper reporter and contributor to the California Globe. He is based near Sacramento, California.
Matthew Keys
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