A San Francisco police officer was found not guilty Monday on three assault and battery charges in what is believed to be the department’s first-ever trial for an on-duty allegation of excessive force. The jury was hung on a fourth charge.
Terrance Stangel was accused of beating a man with a baton while responding to a 911 call reporting domestic violence in Fisherman’s Wharf in October 2019. District Attorney Chesa Boudin filed four felony charges of assault and battery charges against him in December 2020.
In response to the verdict, Stangel's attorney Nicole Pifari said, "we are thankful that the jury was able to see through the dishonesty of the DA’s office in this case and see it for what it was—unjust and unsupported."
“Everyone should be deeply concerned about this case, about this District Attorney, and about the rule of law in San Francisco,” Pifari said. “It doesn’t matter if the DA is from the right or the left, he or she should apply the law fairly and honestly, without tipping the scales of justice to meet a political agenda.”
In a statement, Boudin said he was "disappointed that police accountability remains so elusive and difficult to achieve."
“I thank the jury for their careful consideration of this case over the course of four full days of deliberation, which shows the complex and difficult questions with which they were wrestling,” Boudin said. “I am committed to continuing to hold those who commit harm accountable—regardless of the uniform they may wear or the badge they may carry. No one should be above the law, and my office will continue to fight to ensure that all communities are safe.”
Stangel is the first of several officers being prosecuted by DA Boudin to stand trial, but the case took on even greater prominence last month when Police Chief Bill Scott cited testimony in the case as a reason for pulling out of a reform agreement that put Boudin’s office in charge of investigating all police shootings, in-custody deaths and other serious incidents in San Francisco.
As the Stangel trial began, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office testified that she felt pressured to withhold evidence from police while investigating the incident. Boudin denied the allegations, but Scott said the testimony was part of a larger pattern of the prosecutor’s office not sharing evidence with police as required by the agreement.
While the chief initially threatened to pull out of the deal, Scott later agreed to temporarily continue his partnership with Boudin as the two negotiate. Attorney General Rob Bonta also stepped in to help facilitate the negotiations.
Michael Barba can be reached at email@example.com