web analytics

City to pay $50K to settle civil rights lawsuit after video contradicts police testimony

Trending Articles

       
(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Years after surveillance video contradicted the testimony of a police officer who arrested a man in the Tenderloin, attorneys for San Francisco have agreed to pay the suspect $50,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit.

The proposed settlement was introduced to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday in the case of Brandon Simpson, who alleged that four police officers used excessive force and unlawfully arrested him in December 2015.

Simpson faced federal gun charges as a result of the arrest, but U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer dismissed the charges in May 2016 after video emerged that apparently refuted the testimony of Officer Nicholas Buckley.

SEE RELATED: Feds drop gun charges after video shows officer lied

Buckley was named as a defendant in the January 2017 lawsuit alongside officers John Fergus, Elizabeth Morse and Andrew Clifford. The City’s Attorney’s Office represented the arresting officers in the case.

“This proposed settlement is a reasonable resolution given the inherent costs of litigation,” said John Cote, a spokesperson for the office. “The City does not concede there was any wrongdoing on the part of the officers.”

The arrest happened when the officers pulled up to the corner of Taylor and Eddy streets as Simpson played a game of craps.

Buckley said in court and in a police report that Simpson tried to evade him, according to attorneys for Simpson. The officer also claimed that Simpson kept his hands near his waistband, refusing to show them.

But the video showed “Simpson casually walking with a water bottle in his hand and his other hand at his side,” according to his attorneys. Buckley then threw him to the ground where attorneys say the officers beat him.

The officers then recovered a handgun from Simpson.

When Breyer decided to dismiss the case, he said “The video was unequivocal in rebutting everything the police officer testified to — at least to all the pertinent details.”

In court filings, Deputy City Attorney James Hannawalt acknowledged “some” discrepancies but said “the video does show Mr. Simpson walking away from the illegal dice game.”

“The video also shows Mr. Simpson attempting [to] escape the officer’s control and run away after Officer Buckley detains mr. Simpson and guides him to his knees,” Hannawalt wrote.

After the dismissal, the FBI launched an investigation into “the apparent discrepancy between the video and Officer Buckley’s testimony about his recall of the events,” according to Hannawalt.

The investigation was open as of April 2018. Cote said the office has “no information” as to whether it still is. A spokesperson for the FBI in San Francisco could not immediately comment on the matter.

Hannawalt also said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento subpoenaed Morse, Clifford and Fergus to testify before a grand jury about the arrest.

Federal court records show no criminal case against Buckley, suggesting that he has not been charged.

Hannawalt said the San Francisco Police Department launched an Internal Affairs investigation into the case that, as of April 2018, was pending the outcome of the federal investigation.

The Law Offices of John Burris represented Simpson in the case. Attorneys there did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The attorneys reached the proposed agreement in October. The settlement was introduced to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, which will vote on whether to approve it in the coming weeks.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this story.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Click here or scroll down to comment