by Larry Bush on 02/08/2012

in Paper Trails

District Attorney George Gascon failed to file criminal charges in as many as 1,000 domestic violence cases that involved physical assault in 2011, his first year as District Attorney, according to records maintained by the Police Department’s Domestic Violence unit.

Police Department records show 3,515 police reports were filed, including 1,928 physical assaults with hands, feet or an object, 21 involving a gun and 40 involving a knife.

The District Attorney’s office informed the Police Department that it filed 245 misdemeanor cases and 240 felony cases out of the 3,515 police reports filed.

When CitiReport requested records from the District Attorney’s Office under the Sunshine Ordinance, Chief of Staff Christine Deberry wrote, “The District Attorney’s Office does not have a record…”

According to police officials, some of the reasons that charges are not brought include a non-cooperative victim who declines to press charges.

The Domestic Violence unit has one of the largest caseloads in the Police Department, according to officials there, with about a dozen officers assigned a total of 1,470 cases in 2011. In all 3.515 reported cases, police or other officials contact the reported victim directly and either proceed with the case or make referrals to a counseling agency.

Law enforcement actions in addition to criminal charges in domestic violence cases included 342 motions to revoke probation, 93 arrested because of holds on probation or parole, 124 referred to probation and 51 referred because of parole violations. There were 278 cases that involved violations of court-ordered restraining orders.

The District Attorney’s office reported to the Police Department that by including those cases along with misdemeanor or felony charges it charged in 880 cases.

At the same time, the District Attorney’s office declined to take action in 590 cases referred to it by the Police Department following their investigations.

The issue of domestic violence has risen to headline status as a result of misdemeanor charges brought against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi following a report from a neighbor. Mirkarimi’s wife has refused to file a complaint and is regarded as a non-cooperating victim.

The District Attorney has filed with the court an expert witness on domestic violence who will testify that victims often refuse to file charges.

That was ultimately the situation when the spouse of Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White made an emergency 911 call to complain he had been assaulted and the family’s children endangered.

It also was the case for the partner of Julius Turman, a political activist named first to the city’s Human Rights Commission and now serving on the Police Commission. His partner originally filed a police complaint but later withdrew it and accepted an out-of-court settlement for damages he suffered in an alleged beating.  In that case, Turman was arrested on a felony domestic violence charge.

In both cases, then-District Attorney, Kamala Harris, declined to pursue criminal charges.

While some have raised these cases to suggest favoritism by the District Attorney’s Office – the Fire Chief as a fellow department head and Turman as a campaign donor to Harris – Police Department records appear to indicate that the District Attorney files criminal charges in only a fraction cases.

The District Attorney’s office, in the Mirkarimi case, repeatedly has claimed that it is handling this case the same way it handles all other domestic violence cases.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal)

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