San Francisco defense attorneys claim cops cutting corners in drug busts is common 

Prosecutors dropped a drug case Thursday that involved four of six plainclothes officers currently under investigation for illegally raiding residential hotel rooms and then lying about the busts in police reports.

The dismissal comes just one day after the Public Defender’s Office released videos that contradicted police reports in two separate cases. Defense attorneys predict there will be several more such dismissals of cases involving the officers in the days and weeks to come.

The District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department launched internal investigations into officers Raymond Kane, Raul Elias, Richard Yick, Arshad Razzak, Arthur Madrid and Robert Forneris after the video footage from busts at the Henry Hotel in December and January was released. The district attorney already dropped one of the Henry Hotel cases, and a Superior Court judge tossed the other one.

The latest case to be dropped involves a man arrested on New Year’s Eve inside his room at the Royan Hotel in the Mission district. In a police report, Kane wrote that he and Elias, Madrid and Forneris entered the hotel room after conducting a warrant search on the occupant.

Kane’s police report said he and Elias had found a warrant for the man two days earlier in the “central warrants bureau.” Kane and Elias checked the warrant again at 6:20 p.m. Dec. 31, the report said.

The officers then knocked on the man’s door with their badges in full view, according to the report. They knocked again and then entered through the unlocked door. The man inside tried to block the door, but officers forced their way in and found crack cocaine.

But there is no evidence the officers ever accessed the computer to check the man’s warrant, according to Deputy Public Defender Qiana Washington. Knowledge of a warrant is required to enter someone’s room, she said.

And like the other two cases, surveillance video shows inconsistencies with the report, Washington said. She said the badges were not in view.

Erica Derryck, a spokeswoman for District Attorney George Gascón, confirmed that the case was dropped because of the ongoing investigation of the alleged misconduct.

Police have cut corners illegally for years when it comes to drug busts, but they never get caught, said longtime San Francisco defense attorney Tony Tamburello. He said several more cases involving these officers will be dismissed in the upcoming days and weeks.

“I think you’ll see the same kind of fallout as from the Debbie Madden case,” Tamburello said, referring to the disgraced crime-lab technician who compromised hundreds of drug cases. “If I were the D.A., I’d be very upset.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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