The embattled San Francisco District Attorney's Office has one more headache to add to the pile this week as a wrongful termination suit has arrived from a former investigator who claims to have been fired out of retaliation for the calling out of wrongdoing by prosecutors.
Jeffrey Pailet, a retired police lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department hired by the SF DA's office in 2017 to work in its Independent Investigations Bureau, has filed suit against DA Chesa Boudin and Boudin's chief of staff David Campos claiming that the was wrongfully fired in November 2020. Pailet's suit claims that after he raised concerns about the handling of cellphone search warrants relating to a 2017 police shooting case that Boudin reopened last year, he was terminated in an act of retaliation.
The suit also names prosecutors Dana Drusinsky and Stephanie Lacambra, accusing them of wrongful retaliation and other misconduct.
As the Chronicle reports, Pailet appealed his termination, and it was upheld by the city this past April. According to the complaint, the firing came after an investigation into his conduct and internal complaints in the DA's Office.
"Our client attempted to do the right thing by demanding that various assistant district attorneys follow the law and with respect to executing search warrants," said Pailet’s attorney, Joseph Lucia, in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "Unfortunately, due to his repeated attempts of doing so, he was retaliated against and ultimately terminated from his position within the district attorney's office."
Boudin's office referred inquiries about the case to the city attorney's office, and declined to comment. A spokesperson for City Attorney David Chiu, Jen Kwart, issued a rote statement to the Chronicle saying, "The city is committed to a workplace free of retaliation," and "Mr. Pailet filed this matter in court and that is where we will respond."
The case that was being worked on by prosecutors at the time of Pailet's termination is not specified in the legal documents, but the Chronicle surmises it was the January 2017 shooting of Sean Moore by SFPD Officer Kenneth Cha. Cha was previously cleared of wrongdoing under former DA George Gascon's tenure, but Boudin reopened the case last year following Moore's death in prison in January 2020.
Moore, 42, suffered from mental illness according to his family, and police responded to a call at his Ocean View home in 2017 following neighbor complaints about noise. Moore argued with police through a metal gate at the front door, and after being pepper-sprayed he retreated inside the home, where he continued to tussle with police.
Cha's partner Colin Patino reportedly used a baton, and Cha fired two shots, striking Moore. Moore survived the shooting, but while serving time at San Quentin for an unrelated crime, he died early last year from an "acute intestinal obstruction" that appeared to have been related to the earlier gunshot wound.
The Board of Supervisors subsequently approved a $3.25 million settlement with Moore's family.
Boudin filed manslaughter charges against Cha on November 2, saying that Cha had recklessly shot a man, leading to his death, when he "lacked a lawful basis to even arrest" him.
"We rely on officers to follow their training and to deescalate situations; instead, in just eight minutes, Officer Cha elevated a nonviolent encounter to one that took Sean Moore’s life. Sean Moore was unarmed and at his own home when Officer Cha shot him twice," Boudin said in a statement.
Cha pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, as the Chronicle reported. He'll next appear in court in January.
Pailet claims that the investigators "withheld key details" in their attempt to obtain search warrants for officers' cellphone records, in violation of the law. Pailet further claims he was denied access to a case file after raising complaints abouts warrants being sought by other investigators — while he was serving as supervising investigator on the case.
He is now seeking wage loss and other damages related to his termination.