Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 13 / 26 March 2015
 

Man robbed near Castro restaurant

A man was robbed in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood Tuesday night as he left a restaurant, according to San Francisco police.

The March 24 incident happened at 8 p.m. when the man, 19, was leaving a restaurant at 17th and Market streets and putting his wallet in his backpack, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said today (Thursday, March 26).

The suspect approached the man, shoved him, and grabbed his backpack before fleeing on foot, Esparza said.

Besides the victim’s backpack, his money and books were also stolen. The man wasn’t injured. Esparza didn’t disclose which restaurant the man had been leaving.

The suspect, described only as a black male in his 20s, hasn’t been arrested.

Anyone with information about the incident may call the police department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 150 262 675.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 26, 2015 @ 4:51 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF sheriff’s deputies forced inmates to fight, officials allege

Adachi 2

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

San Francisco sheriff’s deputies allegedly forced at least two inmates to fight each other and one of the deputies is suspected of threatening a male inmate with rape, Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today (Thursday, March 26) at a press conference with Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Adachi and Mirkarimi said another agency would be asked to conduct an investigation. They couldn’t say how long the alleged fights have been happening or how many inmates may have been involved.

In a recent phone interview with Adachi, inmate Ricardo Palikiko Garcia said that deputies had forced him to fight and bet against him. Garcia said Deputy Neu, whose first name wasn’t immediately available, “told me he was what would happen if I didn’t fight, which was beating me up, cuffing me, and macing me.”

Garcia said he was made to fight Stanley Harris, another inmate.

“The first fight we were fighting, tussling, wrestling, and punching each other up until I got Stanley into a headlock, and then he eventually tapped out,” which ended the fight, Garcia said.

Harris told Adachi that Neu threatened him “sexually” in an “embarrassing” way.

“He’ll kinda tell me he’ll take my cheeks or something like that,” he said. When Adachi asked him what he understood that to mean, Harris said, “Like taking my ass or fucking me or something.” Neu was accused several years ago of sexually assaulting a male inmate, according to Adachi. (Recordings of Adachi’s interviews with the inmates, who are clients of his office’s, were played at a press conference today.)

The alleged incidents first came to the attention of one Adachi’s attorneys earlier this month when a client’s father reported the fighting.

Mirkarimi, who said he first learned of the reports from Adachi this morning, said the deputies allegedly involved have been reassigned, and he plans to invite the state Attorney General Kamala Harris or U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the Thursday, April 2 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:43 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Gay SF officer linked to texting probe quits

Michael Robison on the cover of the Advocate in 1998. (Courtesy Here Media)

Michael Robison on the cover of the Advocate in 1998. (Courtesy Here Media)

The gay San Francisco police officer who allegedly participated in homophobic and racist text message exchanges has quit, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, confirmed today (Friday, March 20).

As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, Michael Robison, who Esparza said had been on the force since 1992, quit Wednesday, March 18.

Robison and his attorney, Tony Brass, haven’t responded to the Bay Area Reporter’s interview requests.

The texts, most of which are race-related, recently came to light in documents filed last week in the federal court case against former police Sergeant Ian Furminger, who was convicted in December of stealing and other crimes.

According to the court filing, in one October 2011 exchange, Furminger wrote to at least one other officer, “I was trying to be nice to you as everyone knows your gay,” and “I love calling you a fag! Good enough?” The documents don’t specify which other officer was on the receiving end of that text.

Brian Getz, Furminger’s attorney, said the messages “express the opposite feeling” of what Furminger “felt, and therein lies the humor as he saw it in sending those messages.” He said the racist, homophobic sentiments expressed in the texts are also contrary to the other officers’ true feelings.

The Examiner reported that Robison is 46. He’ll be eligible to collect his pension at 55.

Esparza said with Robison’s departure, the department’s investigation of officers allegedly involved in the texting scandal is down to three.

Other officers have not yet been included in the probe, said Esparza.

Esparza declined to confirm the names of the officers under investigation, since it involves “personnel matters.” However, the others are reportedly Rain Daugherty, Michael Celis, and Noel Schwab.

The district attorney’s and public defender’s offices are reviewing cases in which the officers were involved.

None of the officers could be reached directly for comment, but Alison Berry Wilkinson, Daugherty’s attorney, said in an email that her client “is appropriately ashamed by his impulsive and insensitive banter, and accepts full responsibility for the content of those text messages that he sent, which are by no means a reflection of his true character or his style of policing.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 20, 2015 @ 4:19 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man who claimed sexual assault convicted in SJ murder

Murder defendant Vincent Gallegos

Murder defendant Vincent Gallegos

A San Jose man who claimed he stabbed another man in self-defense because the victim sexually assaulted him was convicted of murder this week.

Jurors announced Wednesday, March 18 that they found Vincent Gallegos, 22, guilty of second-degree murder in the March 2013 death of Errick Wright, 27.

According to to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Gallegos testified during the five-week trial that Wright had “sexually accosted him” in a park restroom, and Gallegos said that after Wright “attacked him with a knife,” he “wrestled the weapon away to desperately fight off his attacker.”

But prosecutors said Wright had defensive wounds and other major injuries, while Gallegos wasn’t injured in the incident.

Gallegos faces 16 years to life in prison. His sentencing is set for May 22.

In a news release, prosecutor Lindsay Walsh said, “Twelve jurors concluded that the defendant’s story – which blamed and besmirched the victim – was not true. Their verdict holds Mr. Gallegos accountable for his violent murder and gives Mr. Wright’s family some small measure of solace.”

People walking in San Jose’s Guadalupe Oak Grove Park March 6, 2013 saw Gallegos, who was “soaked” in blood, “yelling for help and saying someone had hurt his friend,” according to prosecutors. Wright, who’d been stabbed 20 times, was dead on the ground near a park restroom.

According to the DA’s office, Gallegos “had tried to tell witnesses and later police that he had simply found his bloody ‘friend’ lying” on trail in the park “and gone for help.”

But Gallegos later said that he’d stabbed Wright in self-defense.

Gallegos gave six different accounts of how he’d found Wright, prosecutors said. His backpack was found in Wright’s car, which was parked near the scene, and Wright’s car keys were located in a hole in a tree.

Jurors deliberated just five hours before returning their verdict Wednesday.

Alfonso Lopez, Gallegos’ attorney, said in an interview that the verdict was “somewhat surprising.”

Lopez held that Wright had sexually assaulted Gallegos in the bathroom, and his client, who’s straight, “should have got manslaughter at the most.”

He cited testimony from Gallegos and his therapist as evidence of the sexual assault.

“Mr. Gallegos is a good kid who was just caught up in something that was beyond something he could control,” said Lopez. “He didn’t know how to react in that situation.”

Lopez said he’ll file a motion for a new trial, because the prosecutor had withheld a witness.

He also said that during the trial, evidence was presented that Wright was “a very violent person who had just months before beat up a 17-year-old kid at the park,” and he also had been accused “several” times of domestic violence in incidents involving another man. The victim in the domestic violence cases testified during Gallegos’ trial, said Lopez.

“This case wasn’t about any homophobic acts,” he said. “It wasn’t about Mr. Wright getting stabbed because he’s gay. He sexually assaulted another person in the bathroom … It was the sexual assault that triggered the violence.”

Walsh didn’t respond to an interview request.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 19, 2015 @ 6:56 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Former EQCA ED enters Palm Springs City Council race

Geoff Kors, the former longtime executive director of Equality California, announced Tuesday that he’ll seek a seat on the Palm Springs City Council in November.

(Palm Springs City Council candidate Geoff Kors. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

(Palm Springs City Council candidate Geoff Kors. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

“It’s an exciting time for our city,” Kors said in a March 17 email. “Palm Springs is undergoing a major and much-needed revitalization.”

Kors, 53, added that the decisions being made today “will have an impact for decades.”

“It is essential that we maximize this opportunity to grow our economy and do so in a sustainable manner that keeps what is special about Palm Springs,” Kors said. “It is also important that every member of our community participates in our success.”

Kors currently serves as the government and policy director for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. He led EQCA for nine years, instituting a rebranding for the statewide LGBT organization and growing its membership. He stepped down in 2011, saying he felt the time was right for him to do something different.

Kors was one of several executive committee members for the No on 8 campaign in 2008.

Palm Springs voters will elect a mayor and two council members November 3. The filing deadline for candidates is August 7.

Kors and his husband, Palm Springs school board member James Williamson, have lived in the desert city for several years, relocating from San Francisco after Kors stepped down from EQCA.

For more information about Kors’ city council race, visit his campaign website at www.geoffkors.com.

— Cynthia Laird, March 17, 2015 @ 3:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Funds raised to help family of SF trans stabbing victim

Stabbing victim Taja DeJesus. Photo: Michelle Cornwell

Stabbing victim Taja DeJesus. Photo: Michelle Cornwell

Fundraising efforts are underway to help the family of Taja DeJesus, 36, the transgender woman who died in February after being stabbed in San Francisco’s Bayview district.

An Indiegogo campaign has a goal of providing $10,000 to help DeJesus’ family pay costs associated with her death. So far, just over $5,000 has been raised. The effort, a collaboration of San Francisco’s Trans March and other groups, started February 9 and ends March 11.

“Taja was a beautiful soul who was unapologetically unafraid to always be herself,” campaign backers said on their website. “She had an infectious energy that, combined with her sweet nature, made her a delight to everyone whose path she crossed.”

The campaign’s backers added that if they raise more than $10,000, the extra money would go toward a fund to assist with costs related to the deaths of other trans women of color.

“We hate that we know this fund will be necessary, but, unfortunately, we know it will be,” the backers said.

Citing unnamed police sources, SF Weekly reported days after DeJesus’ death that the man suspected of killing her had hanged himself. The medical examiner’s office has identified the man as James Hayes, 49, a “Bay Area resident.”

Officer Grace Gatpandan, a police spokeswoman, said today (Friday, March 6) that she couldn’t confirm whether Hayes was the man suspected of killing DeJesus, since evidence in the case is still being tested. The investigation into DeJesus’ death, which police are not considering a hate crime, remains active.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 6, 2015 @ 6:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Defendant in Castro fight case has outburst in court

Matthew Clark Jorgensen (Photo: SFPD)

Matthew Clark Jorgensen (Photo: SFPD)

A man who was arrested after a recent fight in San Francisco’s Castro district had an outburst in court this week as his public defender tried to get him released from custody.

Police arrested Matthew Clark Jorgensen, 34, Sunday, March 1 after an 11:25 p.m. incident in the 100 block of Hartford Street in which he allegedly pushed over a 38-year-old man. The man, who “hit his head on the ground,” then “exchanged a few punches” with Jorgensen, according to police.

Jorgensen, who’s in custody, appeared Thursday, March 5, in superior court before Judge Tracie Brown for a hearing on the district attorney’s motion to revoke the three-year probation term he’d received in July in a domestic violence case. A bench warrant had been issued for him in December and it appears that he’d recently been in jail again.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Myslin denied the allegations against Jorgensen and requested he be released on his own recognizance.

Sunday’s fight isn’t related “to any domestic violence conduct,” said Myslin, and it wasn’t clear the victim had been injured, although there was a “complaint of pain.”

After Assistant District Attorney Sharon Bacon opposed releasing Jorgensen, citing “public safety reasons,” the defendant decided to speak up for himself.

“I called 911,” Jorgensen said repeatedly and loudly. “I was the one who called 911.”

Brown asked him to stop talking. Criminal defendants rarely speak in court unless they’re asked to.

Bacon said Jorgensen had pushed the victim “so hard,” he’d hit his head and had been taken to the hospital. Brown said she was “not inclined to release” Jorgensen, based on how recent the latest incident had been, among other factors.

Jorgensen, who apparently wanted to be reimbursed for recent travel to San Francisco from southern California, where he also has a criminal history, said, “Give me my money back.”

“Mr. Jorgensen, you need to be quiet,” Brown told him. She then set his bail at $500,000.

Myslin protested that amount, saying the nature of Sunday’s incident constitutes a lower figure, and Jorgensen can’t afford the amount Brown set.

But Brown said, “Given the history of what we have here,” and the violent nature of this weekend’s fight, “I don’t think it’s high.”

Jorgensen again weighed in, telling Myslin, “I called 911″ and making a remark about a police officer and his son. It wasn’t clear what he was referring to.

“You’re not helping your case,” Myslin told his client.

He then said that Jorgensen had been “having issues with his hand,” and a March 11 hearing was set to discuss the defendant’s physical and mental condition. A supplemental report related to the motion to revoke probation is set to be heard March 26.

As Thursday’s hearing concluded, Jorgensen repeated his comment about the police officer and his son.

Reverend River Sims, a gay preacher who helps homeless youth in San Francisco, said in a phone call to the Bay Area Reporter that he’s known Jorgensen for almost 20 years.

“He’s a pain in the ass,” said Sims, but “I fed him. I’ve taken care of him.”

Jorgensen “is a sweet kid,” he said, but he can be “volatile, especially when he’s on drugs.” Sims doesn’t know what Jorgensen’s sexual orientation is but said he’s “mostly been with girls.” (Officials haven’t said what the sexual orientation of the other man involved in Sunday’s fight is.)

The younger man has stayed in San Francisco’s Haight, Tenderloin, Mission, and other neighborhoods, but “Matt wears out his welcome wherever he is,” said Sims, who added, “One of these days my fear is he’s going to hurt someone.”

Sims said Jorgensen’s parents have tried to support him, but he’s refused their help.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed in court documents for Jorgensen declined to comment.

Court records from Ventura County say that Jorgensen has pleaded guilty to drug-related charges and petty theft in cases stemming from 2011.

In court Thursday, Myslin said Jorgensen had recently been released from custody, and he indicated his client had tried to contact probation staff, but he’d been “stymied” by Ventura Count law enforcement officials.

The B.A.R. wasn’t able to catch up with Myslin as he left the courtroom Thursday, and he hasn’t responded to a phone message.

Last July, Jorgensen pleaded guilty to a felony domestic violence charge in San Francisco in exchange for felony counts of making criminal threats, false imprisonment, dissuading a witness from testifying, and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm being dismissed, according to court records.

The imposition of his sentence was suspended July 29 and he was ordered to serve three years of probation.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:12 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Gay SF police lieutenant retires

Retired police Lieutenant Chuck Limbert in 2014. (Photo: Pete Thoshinsky)

Retired police Lieutenant Chuck Limbert in 2014. (Photo: Pete Thoshinsky)

A gay longtime San Francisco cop who is well-known in the LGBT community has abruptly turned in his badge.

Lieutenant Chuck Limbert retired Saturday, February 28, police Chief Greg Suhr confirmed to the Bay Area Reporter today (Thursday, March 5).

It is not known if Limbert’s sudden departure from the force is related to accusations that he tried to prevent an investigation into allegations that another gay officer had embezzled thousands of dollars from the San Francisco Police Department’s Pride Alliance, an organization of LGBT officers.

However, in a text exchange with the B.A.R., Limbert said, “My reputation based on lies has ruined my life’s work.” He added, “There is still an ongoing investigation. I seem to be the only one that remembers that. I loved my job! This embezzlement never happened under my time. Not one word about the old board. … I am hiring a lawyer.”

In response to emailed questions Suhr said, “Lt. Limbert retired, effective last Saturday because he decided to – as was his prerogative being that he was eligible to retire. His retirement was voluntary. He receives all pension/benefits in retirement that he is entitled to based on his age/years of service.”

In a February email, Officer Andy Shakur, member-at-large of the San Francisco Police Department’s Pride Alliance, said former Officer Mike Evans had allegedly embezzled more than $16,000 from the alliance. Evans, who’s denied the allegations to a KTVU reporter, has paid back almost $15,000, according to Shakur. Evans, the police group’s former treasurer, resigned from the department last year and the B.A.R. hasn’t been able to reach him.

In his February 17 email to dues-paying alliance members, which was shared with the B.A.R., Shakur said Limbert had tried to stop others from reporting the case. Limbert, who at least until last week was the alliance’s president, has denied doing anything wrong.

Limbert and other police officials have said the embezzlement case has been forwarded to the district attorney’s office. As of Tuesday, March 3, the DA hadn’t filed charges.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 5, 2015 @ 2:41 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


San Francisco City Hall to pay for annual Castro Pride party, end it at 8 p.m.

Pink Saturday drew a crowd in 2011, with the illuminated pink triangle on Twin Peaks in the background. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Pink Saturday drew a crowd in 2011, with the illuminated pink triangle on Twin Peaks in the background. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco City Hall is expected to pay for this year’s Pink Saturday party but will end the event in the Castro at 8 p.m. and is likely to ban music stages.

Last month the Bay Area Reporter broke the news that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had decided to end their oversight of the street party they had managed for nearly two decades.

The charitable drag nun group made the decision due to escalating violence in recent years, including an attack on one of its members and his husband last year and the shooting death of attendee Stephen Powell, 19, in 2010.

Adam Taylor, an aide to gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, informed Castro merchants at their monthly meeting this morning (Thursday, March 5), that city leaders had determined the party must continue, despite the Sisters’ withdrawal, in order to deal with the tens of thousands of people expected to stream into the Castro the evening of Saturday, June 27 on the eve of the city’s Pride parade and celebration Sunday, June 28.

Not only does the annual Dyke March, held early Saturday evening, lead up to 10,000 people into the Castro, but the Pride-sponsored celebration that day in the Civic Center also wraps up around 5 p.m. and many of the attendees then head for the Castro. City officials are also bracing for a larger-than-normal turnout for Pride weekend this year due to the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule sometime in June that states cannot ban same-sex marriage.

“We are going to have an event that Saturday but will be ending it earlier,” said Taylor.

Speaking on behalf of Wiener, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, Taylor added, “Not having an event is not an option.”

Wiener’s office is in consultation with Mayor Ed Lee’s administration, including the police department and Municipal Transportation Agency officials, on planning for this year’s Pink Saturday party.

Steve Kawa, a gay man who is Lee’s chief of staff, and Kate Howard, the mayor’s budget director, are working with Wiener to determine were the funding will come from to cover the expenses associated with hosting the street party. Last year’s event cost $80,000 for the Sisters to produce, though the price tag for the 2015 event will likely be less if the city axes having musical stages and/or a food truck area.

“We are looking into what would be needed to pay for the event,” said Taylor.

The city would allocate resources to staff the event and bring in port-o-potties, added Taylor. City leaders have also reached out to a community organization to partner with them, though the outside group has yet to confirm it will participate.

The reason the city intends to end Pink Saturday at 8 p.m. this year, said Taylor, is “because we see a lot of people coming in after that hour and engaging in bad behavior.”

Rather than having music stages, as has been a hallmark of past Pink Saturdays, the city is contemplating having one stage where out elected officials and community leaders can give speeches.

“There is nothing like calming down a crowd than having someone like (gay) state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) talk about what pride means for 20 minutes,” said Taylor. “We will invite a number of people to talk about what it means to have pride.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 1:17 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Jane Warner Plaza planters to be down-sized due to “bad behavior”

The planter on the border of Jane Warner will be down-sized in response to complaints about misuse of the parklet.

The planter on the border of Jane Warner will be down-sized in response to complaints about misuse of the parklet.

Two of the planters at Jane Warner Plaza are set to be down-sized due to “bad behaviors” at the medium-sized parklet in San Francisco’s gay Castro district.

The pedestrian plaza on 17th Street, where it connects to the intersection of Castro and Market streets, had undergone some minor modifications last year as part of a major overhaul of the streetscape on Castro Street. The parklet was repaved in such a way that the planters were closer to ground level.

Neighborhood leaders contend that led to people allowing their pets to pee in the planters, sleep amid the landscaping, or use them as storage for bags and other items. The situation led to city officials holding a community meeting to address the issue and announce they would close down the plaza for several months, as the Bay Area Reporter reported last month.

The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, which assists the city with upkeep and activation of the parklet, has since stopped putting out tables and chairs in the plaza for people to use. But as of this morning (Thursday, March 5), the plaza still remained open for people to either pass through or congregate on the planters.

This planter near gay bar Twin Peaks will also be reduced in size.

This planter near gay bar Twin Peaks will also be reduced in size.

Andrea Aiello, the CBD’s executive director, told the B.A.R. that the city has yet to determine how to pay for the estimated $55,000 it will cost to reduce the two planter beds.

Along with the one fronting the entrance to the gas station, the planter near the doors to gay bar Twin Peaks will also be shortened.

“As soon as they start construction, the plaza will be less accessible,” said Aiello.

It is unknown where the money will come from to pay for the planter remodels, said Aiello. The office of District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro, referred the B.A.R. to the city’s Department of Public Works in response to questions about when the work would commence.

John Dennis, a DPW project manager who oversaw the streetscape work, said Thursday afternoon that reconstruction of the planters had yet to be scheduled.

“We’re still negotiating with contractors about this, so too soon to tell, but we are trying to do this as soon as is feasible,” wrote Dennis in an emailed reply.

Adam Taylor, an aide for Wiener, did inform Castro merchants at their monthly meeting today that city officials and neighborhood leaders are “identifying infrastructure improvements” for the plaza and are “working on a plan for what the plaza will look like.”

Speaking on behalf of Wiener, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, Taylor also said that the supervisor continues to work on a list of behavior offenses that could lead to citations from the police in order to clamp down on some of the problems that have been occurring at the parklet the last two months.

“One example would be if you destroy the landscaping by sleeping or putting your stuff on it,” said Taylor.

He reiterated comments Wiener made at the recent town hall about the conditions at the plaza that the focus is not on homeless people but anyone who is not acting appropriately at the parklet.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:29 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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