MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) — A court hearing to determine whether a Northern California police officer who exchanged racist text messages violated a state law aimed at eliminating racism in the criminal justice system closed Friday with no officers on stage to answer questions about the scandal rocking the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lawyers for four men charged with murder and attempted murder in a 2021 shooting have summoned Antioquia police officers to testify: heavily edited text messages The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement in April.
The attorneys were scheduled to argue before Judge David Goldstein that the two, including the client named in the text message, were unfairly targeted on the basis of their race. State racial justice laws prohibit states from pursuing or securing criminal convictions or sentences on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.
But the judge spent much of Friday’s trial judgment on allegations rather than evidence, and none of the officers testified. Hearings will continue until late August, with the underlying criminal case pending.
In addition to the nine officers who were subpoenaed and were able to take the stand on Friday, five officers were subpoenaed but claimed they were injured in the line of duty and were not medically cleared to testify.
A total of 17 Antioquia police officers have been named for tampering with evidence, assaulting suspects, sending texts containing racist and homophobic remarks and sexually explicit language. Most of the messages were sent in 2020 and 2021, and the subject of court debate goes far beyond the case.
Antioquia Police Chief Stephen Ford was also subpoenaed to testify, but Goldstein ruled Friday that he would not be required to appear in court because his testimony was unrelated to whether officers displayed racial prejudice or hostility. Ford was not the police chief at the time the text message was sent.
Carmela Caramaño, an attorney for one of the four suspects, argued that Ford’s testimony was important for the court to gain a broader picture of the department’s internal affairs and devise appropriate remedies.
Caramagno also said he wanted to ask Ford why five police officers had “work injuries” and were unable to appear in court, even though defense investigators saw some of them “looking very healthy,” “having a pool party,” and “walking well.”
Lawyer Matthew Martinez, one of the defendants, said he was subpoenaed to explain to the court why the officers sent the text messages. But “they will all be unavailable indefinitely,” he says.
The hearing came two days after Ford, who is black, made the surprise announcement that he will retire next month. He retired after serving only one year as interim and permanent police chief. He did not respond to emails requesting an interview.
Counsel for eight of the nine other police officers summoned also appeared in court on Friday.
The four men represented by the defense have been charged with murder and attempted murder in a March 2021 drive-by shooting that prosecutors say is gang-related.
The Racial Justice Act allows defendants to apply for redress in court. If violations are found, judges may dismiss enhanced prosecutions or reduce prosecutions. In May, Goldstein dropped the gang charges against the defendants after historical data showed county prosecutors unfairly targeted blacks with hardening measures that lead to longer prison terms.
Two of the defendants, Trent Allen and Therion Pugh, were the subject of some of the published text messages. Officers joked that they kicked them in the head and shot them in the neck and buttocks. They also shared a photo of Allen and Pugh injured in a hospital bed.
Allen’s mother, Cyril Cobbs, said she wanted a police officer who boasted about beating her son in prison.
“He kicked his head. He talked about it. It’s a crime. He texted it,” she said outside court. “And they talked about it. He needs to go to jail now.”
The struggling police department serves a racially diverse city of 115,000 people located about 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of San Francisco.
The text messages were released as part of an ongoing joint investigation launched by the FBI and the Contra Costa District Attorney in March 2022 about a wide range of potential crimes committed by officers from the Antioquia Police Department and nearby Pittsburgh Police Department.
The city of Antioch faces the following situation. federal civil rights litigation The state attorney general’s office launched a civil rights investigation into police in May over the text message.
https://www.ksby.com/news/california-news/racist-text-scandal-at-northern-california-police-department-at-center-of-court-hearing Racist writing scandal in California police.at the center of court proceedings