Three San Francisco police officers accused of conducting illegal searches of residential hotel rooms and falsifying reports appeared briefly before a federal judge today and were given an April 8 date for a hearing on possible pretrial motions.
The officers, who were indicted on Feb. 25, have not yet filed any motions, but U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco scheduled the hearing at the request of federal prosecutor John Hemann.
If no motions are filed, the hearing will be a status conference to set future dates, Seeborg told the officers and their attorneys.
Officers Arshad Razzak, 41, and Richard Yick, 37, of San Francisco, and Raul Elias, 44, of San Mateo, are accused of conspiring to violate and violating the civil rights of single-room-occupancy hotel residents by conducting allegedly illegal searches in 2010 and 2011.
Razzak and Yick also face additional charges of falsifying police reports and an informant payment record.
Outside of court, defense attorneys Michael Rains and Matthew Pavone said any motions filed at this point in the case would concern the indictment itself, such as a motion to dismiss the charges.
They said a decision on whether to file motions will depend on their study of prosecution evidence, which prosecutors are due to start turning over to them on Wednesday, in a process known as discovery.
“We’ll take a look at the discovery and if a motion is viable and has merit, we’ll file it,” said Rains, who represents Razzak. Other types of pretrial defense motions could be filed later in the case, the attorneys said.
Asked for comment on the case, Pavone, who represents Elias, said, “After years of rumor and innuendo, Officer Elias and I welcome the opportunity to finally challenge these allegations in a public and impartial forum.”
The three officers pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate on Friday and were released on $50,000 bonds. Today was their first appearance before Seeborg, the trial judge assigned to their case.
Two other officers and one former officer were charged in a separate indictment, also issued on Feb. 25, with conspiring to violate civil rights by stealing money and property from people arrested; conspiring to sell drugs; and scheming to steal seized money, property and drug evidence from the Police Department between 2009 and 2011.
Their case was assigned to a different trial judge, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, and they are due to appear before Breyer in San Francisco on Wednesday for a similar initial status conference.
Those defendants are Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill; Officer Edmond Robles, 46, of Danville; and former officer Reynaldo Vargas, 45, of Palm Desert.
Seeborg asked Hemann today whether the two cases may be related, but Hemann, an assistant U.S. attorney, said they were not.
“They have different charges and different evidence,” Hemann told the judge.
The five current officers were suspended without pay by Police Chief Greg Suhr after the previously sealed indictments were announced by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag on Thursday. Suhr said, “Our department has been shaken.”
If the men are convicted, the various charges each carry possible maximum sentences ranging from one to 20 years in prison.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News