SAN FRANCISCO – A panel of justices in California's First District Court of Appeal recently disagreed with a San Francisco Superior Court decision that said disciplinary notices filed against several San Francisco police officers in 2015 had been filed within the statute of limitations.
The opinion, released for publication June 22, was authored by Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins with Justices William R. McGuiness and Stuart R. Pollak joining in the opinion.
The case stemmed from a criminal corruption investigation instigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2011 involving several officers of the San Francisco Police Department.
After search warrants of cellphone records of a former sergeant, Ian Furminger, had been issued, it was discovered that there had been "racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic text messages" between the sergeant and nine officers of the police department, court documents said.
A criminal case proceeded and a verdict was reached against Furminger and an unnamed co-defendant for conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy against civil rights and wire fraud.
After the criminal trial, the text messages involving the nine officers were released by the U.S. Attorney's Office to San Francisco Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, where another investigation was done. Later, the chief of police filed disciplinary charges against the officers in April 2015.
Rain O. Daugherty, one of the nine officers, filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint, requesting that the disciplinary charges be rescinded because they were not filed in a timely manner.
The trial court agreed with Daugherty and granted the petition, finding that the statute of limitations had expired one year from the day the text messages were discovered in December 2012.
The appeals court disagreed and concluded that the statute of limitations time frame did not begin until the text messages were released to the police department's Internal Affairs Division after the criminal trial.
"We alternatively conclude the one-year statute of limitations was tolled until the verdict in the criminal corruption case because the text messages were the 'subject' of the criminal investigation within the meaning of section 3304, subdivision (d)(2)(A)," Jenkins wrote. "Thus, the April 2015 notices of discipline were timely."
The appeals court found that the trial court's conclusions were based on errors of law and reversed that decision.
California First District Court of Appeal Case numbers A145863 and A147385