Officer-disclosure issues still plaguing SF district attorney

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Attempts to keep defense attorneys abreast of the troubled history of cops involved in court trials hit a hiccup this weekend when the District Attorney’s Office failed to disclose that an officer once jabbed an innocent man’s face with a crack pipe.

Police are wrapping up a list of officers identified as having disciplinary records that could affect their testimony in court because the Police Department and District Attorney's Office had the lack of what is being referred to as a “Brady policy.” But in the meantime, police say they have provided that information to prosecutors for future cases.

Prosecutors, however, have failed to disclose information about an officer who was part of the arrest of Josefino Rufino, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. Rufino is charged with possession of methamphetamine and maintaining a home where drugs are sold. He’s set to go to trial in July.

The officer, Reynaldo Vargas, was involved in a very public incident in 2002 in which Vargas took a man into custody near Powell and O’Farrell streets for riding a cable car without paying the fare.

While in the patrol car, Vargas stabbed the man in the face with a broken glass pipe, saying, “Eat it! Eat it!” according to charging documents. He ended up suspended for 180 days without pay, according to a settlement of his disciplinary case approved by the Police Commission in 2005.

Commissioner Louise Renne voted against the settlement, which was approved by the rest of the panel, amid allegations that Vargas lied in testimony. The City eventually paid out $60,000 in the settlement.

“It is outrageous that the district attorney is refusing to provide evidence of an officer’s violent history,” Adachi said in a statement.

The District Attorney's Office is required by law to obtain officer personnel records through a court order, spokeswoman Erica Derryck said.

“Mr. Adachi continues to issue press releases and make demands as if we can ignore the law,” she said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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