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San Francisco sheriff oversight board member arrested on suspicion of sexual assault

A portrait of William Palmer with a colorful striped background.
A screen grab shows a picture of William Palmer, III, a member of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Oversight Board and the Sentencing Commission. | Source: SFGov

A member of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Oversight Board was arrested this week on suspicion of sexual assault and other crimes, according to jail records. 

William Monroe Palmer II, 53, was booked into San Francisco jail on Thursday on suspicion of sodomy by use of force, false imprisonment, assault, sexual battery by restraint and parole violation among other allegations, according to records.

The jail is run by the Sheriff’s Department. 

Palmer has not been formally charged.

The arrest stems from a report of a sexual assault on Aug. 30, according to the San Francisco Police Department, which identified the suspect as Palmer.

From that report, SFPD investigators say they developed probable cause to arrest Palmer. Police ultimately took Palmer into custody more than two months later, at 9 a.m. Thursday on Scott Street, and booked him into jail hours later.

Palmer was appointed to the oversight board by the Board of Supervisors in 2021. In May, his term was extended to 2027. Palmer was also appointed by the Board of Supervisors to San Francisco’s Sentencing Commission.

Palmer could not be reached for comment by publication time. Jail records indicated he remained in custody.

In 2019, Palmer was released from prison after serving 31 years for a failed robbery-turned-kidnapping. The California Supreme Court ruled that 23 of those years amounted to “excessive punishment,” according to his biography on the Sheriff Oversight Board’s website. 

Palmer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at 17. He tried to rob an off-duty police officer by taking him at gunpoint to an ATM. The off-duty cop then shot at Palmer numerous times, hitting him in the knee. Palmer was later arrested. Palmer’s gun was found to be unloaded. 

“Thirty-two years ago, William Palmer broke the law,” his lawyers wrote in their filings arguing for his release. “He was reckless and impulsive and created a dangerous situation. He was also 17. Thankfully, no one was physically injured by his ill-advised actions.”

Palmer has been the subject of news coverage, including a Washington Post piece that focused on issues with state parole and Palmer’s run-ins with the system since his release. That story detailed Palmer’s attempts to reintegrate with society, noting, for example, that he had developed an original one-man play with the Returned Citizens Theatre Troupe, a collective of former prisoners-turned-actors. It also explained how Palmer wound up back in jail after a fender-bender in 2020.

Palmer’s biography on the oversight board’s website says that since his release from prison, he has advocated for social reforms, mentored youth and advocated for parole reform.

In addition, the bio says that he has had challenges reentering society. 

The seat held by Palmer on the board is designated for someone who has been through the criminal justice system. 

In his application for the position, he wrote that it is “imperative that voices of those that were formerly incarcerated” be on the oversight board. 

“I bring an essential perspective,” he continued, “as an individual (who) was formerly incarcerated and as an individual who personally navigated the struggles of reintegration and works daily to assist others in their transition from the criminal justice system into society.”

Palmer noted in that application that he had been endorsed for the position by the San Francisco Jail Justice Coalition, which includes nine organizations. Among them are Glide, Community Housing Partnership and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Palmer was one of four candidates Supervisor Shamann Walton put forward to the Rules Committee, which voted unanimously to send the applicants to the board.

Walton declined to comment.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at