SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is dismissing more than a dozen criminal cases involving San Jose police officers who posted racist messages on a private Facebook group.
The DA’s office said it sent out dozens of letters to defense attorneys and the Public Defender’s Office Thursday documenting the dismissals and offering to hear additional information on other cases handled by the officers to determine if more cases should be dismissed.
Four San Jose police officers were placed on administrative in June after the discovery of the closed Facebook group where racist comments and posts were made.
The existence of the Facebook group was first revealed in a post on Medium and revealed messages mocking the Black Lives Matter movement and describing members as “racist idiots” and “enemies.” One message read: “black lives don’t really matter.” Members of the Muslim community were also the subject of many posts, with one message saying “I say re-purpose the hijabs into nooses” and added a smiling emoji.
“Our community has the right to feel secure that the criminal cases we file in this county are untainted by prejudice,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen in a statement. “I have the obligation to ensure these cases are untainted by prejudice.”
The DA’s office said it compiled a list of 14 cases in which any one of the Facebook group officers who made the bigoted posts was listed as a witness, saying the integrity of the case has been so compromised that the Office can no longer stand by the conviction.
All of the cases were misdemeanors, with a majority of them involving driving issues or resisting arrest. The suspended officers behind the racist posts have not been identified by the department or by the DA’s office.
“When it becomes clear from some statements that they hold some members of the community in contempt, which is what it looks like from the statements, that’s a real problem,” said Santa Clara County assistant district attorney David Angel.
“I wear a head scarf,” said Zahra Biloo of the Council on American Islamic Relations. “I think twice about calling the police. In fact, I can’t imagine the last time I felt safe doing so.”
“The scrutiny officers are receiving regarding inappropriate behavior is warranted and, in this instance, I understand the DA office decision to seek dismissal in minor cases. We are also holding any officer found to have acted inappropriately accountable through our internal investigations,” SJPD chief Eddie Garcia said.
“We have no reason to believe that they have disciplined the police officers or that they have removed them from the force. The police department has not said anything in months,” Billoo said.
“Criminal convictions often turn on the credibility of one or two key witnesses and a police officer’s expressions of racism and bigotry undermine that credibility,” said San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. “The decision today isn’t about political correctness, it’s about the integrity of our criminal justice system.”