Handcuffed SF Public Defender Won’t Be Charged, She Says Police “Overreached”

SF Public Defender via Facebook

The San Francisco deputy public defender who was handcuffed  while she was trying to defend her client won't be charged with any crime, and on Thursday she criticized the officer who detained her by saying police often bully, intimidate and overreach in their power.

As the San Francisco Police Department decided not to pursue any resisting arrest charges against her, Jami Tillotson thanked the police chief for his apology, but stated in a release that she is "concerned that he continues to support Sgt. Brian Stansbury’s actions."

On Jan. 27, Stansbury detained the 50-year-old Tillotson, a veteran public defender of 18 years, as she objected to him and other officers trying to interview a client of hers outside a courtroom without her presence.  Colleague Landon Davis, another deputy public defender,  videotaped the detention, which heightened the intensity and scrutiny of the issue.

"My client, a young African American man, was left without the benefit of advice of counsel," she stated. "The right to counsel is not a formality. It is a shield that protects ordinary people against intimidation, bullying, and overreach by law enforcement."

Stansbury was named in a pending federal lawsuit filed by a black San Francisco police officer claiming he was racially profiled during a traffic stop and then allegedly choked and tackled to the ground by officers in May 2013. Tillotson took aim at Stansbury's history, citing the suit against him, and filed an Office of Citizen Complaints against him.

On Thursday, San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza had no comment other than to say anyone has the right to file a citizens complaint.

The San Francisco Public Defender's Office run by Jeff Adachi, who launched a change.org petition to dismiss the case against Tillotson,  also on Thursday released new video of the day in question. In it, the video taken by an unknown person shows Tillotson being led downstairs with her hands cuffed behind her back as a police officer escorted her through the Hall of Justice. Throughout, Tillotson remained calm. The video shows the police officer walking slowly through the halls, and asking the videographer to shut off the camera. But in Tillotson's complaint, she said the officer's "treatment of me while in handcuffs was unreasonablly rough." She said he shouted at her and "gripped my arm in an overly aggressive manner."

Moments before she was detained, Tillotson said she was in Department 17 as she usually is,  representing her clients when she was informed that police in the hallway outside of the courtroom were trying to question one of her clients and another person.

She left the courtroom and found both men being questioned without representation.

In the videos taken by colleague Sangeeta Sinha, and released by the public defender's office, police Inspector Brian Stansbury is seen telling the two men that he needs to take their photographs. In the video, Tillotson repeatedly tells Stansbury and other officers, "I am representing my client here."

Stansbury warns Tillotson that if she doesn't step aside she will be arrested, to which she replies "Please do." Stansbury then handcuffs Tillotson and she is then led away from her client. She was held in a cell for about an hour before being let go.

Last week, Esparza said Tillotson was detained by Stansbury for allegedly resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer trying to perform an investigation. And that Stansbury noticed the two men in court that day who he thought might be related to a burglary. The public defender's office noted Tillotson's client was never arrested.

The 2013 civil rights lawsuit still pending against Stansbury, the city of San Francisco, police Chief Greg Suhr and Officers Daniel Dudley and Christopher O'Brien. It was filed by San Francisco police Officer Lorenzo Adamson, who was out of work at the time because of a back injury.

Adamson alleges that he was pulled over because the license plate on his Honda Accord was not visible. Instead of asking him for his license and registration, the lawsuit alleges, Stansbury asked him whether he was on parole or probation. 

As Adamson got out of his car and tried to explain that he was a police officer on disability leave, Dudley allegedly began applying a chokehold on him and tackled him to the ground, the lawsuit claims. The officers allegedly then grabbed Adamson's police gun, handcuffed him, and held him face down on the ground until backup officers arrived and identified him as a member of the police force, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges that the officers' treatment caused Adamson severe pain and aggravated his back injury.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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