The California Attorney General's Office has responded to a San Francisco court proceeding involving what would have been the first-ever prosecution of an on-duty SFPD officer for a fatal shooting, asking for 90 more days to review the case.
We learned last week that a judge in the manslaughter case against former rookie SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa, Judge Loretta Giorgi, had opted to delay a motion by the SF District Attorney's Office to dismiss the charges against Samayoa, in order to give the AG's office more time to decide if they want to take on the case.
AG Rob Bonta, who has made police accountability in fatal shootings a central cause of his office, has not yet said whether state prosecutors will take on the case — essentially allowing SF DA Brooke Jenkins the to punt the case and recuse herself and all of her deputies. Bonta's office earlier told the family of the victim in the case, Keita O'Neal, that they "do not believe the District Attorney has a recusable conflict of interest in this case."
But on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Susan Schwartz requested that Judge Giorgi delay for another 90 days in dismissing the case, and Giorgi granted the delay. As Mission Local reports, O'Neil's family has met with Bonta's office, and they found out that the statute of limitations on the case won't be up for three years — after allegedly being told by Jenkins's office that it would be up in nine days.
Schwartz reportedly asked the judge to grant the three-month delay "specifically to review the actions of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office," as well as evidence in the case, per Mission Local.
Brian Ford, an attorney for O'Neil's aunt, April Green, told Mission Local outside the court today, "We are fully committed to this case, and we fully believe that upon an objective review of the facts and the law in this case, that Mr. Bonta and his office will see fit to continue this prosecution."
Former SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin filed the manslaughter charge against Samayoa in late 2020, saying, "In San Francisco there has been a long history of officer-involved shootings leading to no accountability whatsoever, further cementing the idea that police are above the law. That stops today."
A little over a year after the charges were filed, and amid the prosecution of another police brutality case against an SFPD officer, Bonta's office said it would try to help mediate an ongoing war between Boudin's DA's office and the police department. But that war became moot with Boudin's recall in June, and Jenkins's subsequent appointment by Mayor London Breed.
The shooting of O'Neil occurred on December 1, 2017, and bodyworn camera footage showed Samayoa make a split-second decision to fire on O'Neil out of the passenger window of a patrol car, after seeing him try to run past officers following an alleged carjacking. O'Neil was unarmed, and Samayoa was mere days out of the police academy at the time.
Boudin has recently accused Jenkins of coordinating with Samayoa's defense team, and he has excoriated her for playing politics with the case — something she has similarly accused him of doing.
"Jenkins’s dismissal is offensive and her excuses are dishonest: We charged this case based on the facts — the same facts that led the police department to fire the officer, led the judge to sign the arrest warrant, and led the city to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit with Keita O’Neil’s family," Boudin told Mission Local last month.
The ACLU similar called Jenkins's decision to dismiss the case "extremely disturbing," and said it "sends an unmistakable signal that police officers will not be held accountable under Brooke Jenkins' watch."
Jenkins's office responded to the judge's decision to delay last week saying, "We understand the complexity of this case and the Attorney General’s Office’s need for more time to review this matter. We have already transferred the entire case file to the Attorney General’s office and welcome their independent review."
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images