Donald Hoganson (Photo courtesy SFPD)

Donald Hoganson (Photo courtesy SFPD)

Charges dropped against man who allegedly made Twitter threats against acting SFPD chief

All charges against a man who allegedly tweeted threats against Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin were dropped earlier this month, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

Donald Hoganson, 60, was arrested July 19 at his San Francisco home after the discovery of a series of tweets he allegedly posted calling for the beheading of Chaplin, among other violence.

According to court documents, a former television reporter turned Police Department employee, David Stevenson, discovered the tweets.

The social media postings came at a particularly tense time for police in San Francisco and around the country after the killing of five Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest earlier that month.

Hoganson faced charges for the alleged threats including criminal threats, stalking, threatening a public officer and threatening an executive office. Each charge also included hate crime enhancements. If convicted, he would have faced six years in prison.

But on Aug. 8, Judge Edward Sarkisian found there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

That finding was on free speech grounds, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

Hoganson reportedly tried to have his public defender, Landon Davis, a black man, dismissed because of what he claimed was an alleged conflict of interest. Davis, however, successfully argued that his client was simply praying that someone cut Chaplin’s head off, namely the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Despite his ravings — the judge even questioned if he was mentally fit — Hoganson’s tweets were considered free speech based on another case in which a man threatened President Barack Obama.

In United States vs. Bagdasarian, the U.S. Appeals Court, which noted that Walter Bagdasarian was a “very unpleasant fellow,” overturned his conviction for threatening the president in 2008 on a Yahoo message board. To convict someone of a threat, noted the ruling, there must be credible evidence that the person behind the threats meant to harm or kill the president.

“Committed public defenders like Landon Davis fight every day for their clients, even if they vehemently disagree with their views,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

“They do it because they believe in constitutional protections for everyone. That not only includes the right to a zealous defense, but the free speech rights granted to all Americans, regardless of their message,” he said.

The Police Department did not return a call for comment.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeinkcharges droppedCrimeDonald Hogansonhate crimeSFPD

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, which features a comprehensive water-recycling system, on July 30, 2021. Water recycling in office buildings is seen as a promising sustainability effort, as well as a smart hedge against rising costs and future shortages. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
Salesforce Tower is part of a nationwide water recyling trend: Here’s how it works

By Patrick Sisson New York Times When Salesforce Tower in San Francisco… Continue reading

Folks wave from the side of a Muni cable car as it heads down Powell Street after cable car service returns from a 16-month COVID absence on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s cable cars return after 16-month absence

San Francisco’s cable cars are back, and they’re free for passengers to… Continue reading

An East Palo Alto resident is inoculated during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
COVID vaccinations lag for people on Medi-Cal

By Ana B. Ibarra CalMatters Low-income Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal have been… Continue reading

Blue California often is the target of criticism by conservative media, but now is receiving critical attention from liberal writers. Pictured: The State Capitol. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Why is California now being criticized from the left?

California being what it is – a very large state with a… Continue reading

Most Read