City attorney wins access to mauling victims’ cell phone records, car

In anticipation of a lawsuit over the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo, the City Attorney’s Office obtained a temporary court order Tuesday to secure the cell phone records and car of the two brothers mauled in the attack.

While zoo officials have stopped short of accusing Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal of taunting Tatiana the tiger, they have repeatedly said something must have provoked it to jump from its enclosure. Police have confirmed that an empty bottle of vodka could be seen on the front seat of the car, and city attorney investigators have expressed interest in images captured on the brothers’ cell phones.

The order comes on the day the brothers were scheduled to pick up their property from police, said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who referred to the emergency hearing as a “race against the clock.” The brothers’ lawyer, Mark Geragos, refused to comment Monday on whether the brothers would give the permission needed to give police access to their property. He also rejected claims that the two have been uncooperative.

Referring to correspondence between Geragos and himself, Herrera accused Geragos of “just stalling until his clients could get to the Police Department to claim their cell phones and car.

“I am gratified that his gamesmanship failed and that the court will now be able to decide these important issues on the merits,” Herrera said.

A hearing Friday will determine if investigators for the City Attorney’s Office and San Francisco Zoological Society may inspect the evidence.

Geragos has repeatedly pointed out that his clients have never been charged with any criminal behavior in the attack.

The city attorney’s investigation is one of many in a growing list of inquiries. San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd called for a hearing before the board at Tuesday’s meeting and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi called on officials to re-examine the lease agreement between The City and the zoological society.

Both supervisors also remembered victims of the Christmas Day mauling: Elsbernd called Carlos Sousa Jr. a hero, while Mirkarimi asked to remember Tatiana.

bbegin@examiner.com  

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