Less than a month ago, San Francisco deputy city attorneys were asking — unsuccessfully — for a new jury panel in an excessive force case against former local cop Alex Fagan Jr. and another officer. On Wednesday, the federal jurors they wound up with from that panel came back with a unanimous defense verdict.
So in hindsight, isn’t Deputy City Attorney Sean Connolly pretty much thanking his lucky stars right now that the judge turned down his motion back in April? “Depends,” Connolly said, with what sounded over the phone like a mischievous glint. “Another jury may have come back quicker.” In a more serious tone, he added, “I’m just really happy for Alex, who’s been vilified so long.”
For those keeping tabs on the smattering of civil cases that have accused Fagan Jr. of doing something bad, fajitagate-oriented or not, this week’s victory by Connolly and Deputy City Attorney David Newdorf in Washburn v. Fagan, 03-0869, was at least the fourth time the city has escaped damage. (Another trial ended with a defense verdict, a case against police bosses was recently thrown out on a summary judgment motion, and another suit was, according to Connolly, dismissed by the plaintiffs without a settlement.)
Even with all that, though, Fagan Jr. and the city still aren’t out of the woods. The city attorney is still defending another federal case set for trial next month that involves the former cop. And Fagan Jr.’s got private counsel to defend him in a superior court trial set for later this month, the last suit tied directly to the 2002 fajitagate fight between three off-duty cops and two civilians.
— Pam Smith