Jury in Police Corruption Trial to Begin Deliberating Today

A federal jury is due to start deliberating Tuesday in the corruption trial of two San Francisco police officers accused stealing money and property during searches in 2009.

The case of Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill, and Officer Edmond Robles, 47, of Danville, was put in the hands of the jury by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer late today after a day of closing arguments.

Testimony in Breyer’s San Francisco courtroom began on Nov. 10.

The two men, who formerly worked as plainclothes officers in the Mission District of the city, are accused of conspiring to steal money and property during five searches in San Francisco and Newark in 2009.

They are also charged with defrauding the citizens of San Francisco of their honest services between 2008 and 2012, wire fraud, conspiracy to violate civil rights and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann told jurors during his closing argument, “A police officer has a duty provide law enforcement to the citizens of San Francisco.

“Instead of doing that, these defendants got in bed with these informants and they committed crimes and did it over and over again,” Hemann alleged.

Defense attorneys attacked the credibility of prosecutors’ chief witness, former officer Reynaldo Vargas, 46, of Palm Desert, who pleaded guilty to four charges shortly before trial and agreed to testify against his former colleagues.

Prosecutors “offered (Vargas) leniency, a reduction in his sentence in exchange for his testimony,” Brian Getz, a defense lawyer for Furminger, argued.

“He’s been bought with freedom, more precious than gold,” Getz alleged.

Robles’s lawyer, Teresa Caffese, argued, “He tailors his testimony to the government narrative.”

The largest of the alleged thefts was a purported $30,000 haul, which Vargas testified he dug up while he was alone in the backyard of a suspected drug dealer’s house in Newark on May 25, 2009.

Vargas said he divided the money equally with Furminger and Robles as they drove back to San Francisco. The San Francisco police officers had been assisting federal drug agents with a raid on the house and prosecutors allege that Furminger interrupted a vacation to join them.

Defense attorneys argued there was no proof, other than Vargas’s allegations, that the $30,000 ever existed or that Furminger or Robles received any of it.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Rodney Villazor contended during the prosecution rebuttal that other evidence corroborated Vargas’s testimony.

Records showed that Robles deposited $6,000 in cash in his bank account the next day and also bought a bicycle for $3,700, Villazor said. He said evidence showed that Furminger, who allegedly told Vargas he would spend his share on skylights for his house, did buy skylights.

Furminger and Robles were suspended without pay from the department after being indicted in February. Vargas was fired in 2012 for falsifying timecards.

Vargas pleaded guilty before Breyer on Oct. 21 to four counts of conspiracy to distribute drugs, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft, and theft. His sentencing date has not been set.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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