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San Francisco Public Defender Arrested and Now Filing Complaint

Posted by Seth Chazin | Feb 09, 2015 | 0 Comments

San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson was arrested at the San Francisco Hall of Justice for allegedly obstructing police when they were asking to take pictures of her client outside a courtroom. As her client did not want pictures taken, she expressed that to the police and they in turn arrested her for allegedly obstructing an office in the performance of their duties (California Penal Code 148(a)). Her client, an African- American man, was then left without the advice of counsel, in violation of the clients 5th and 6th amendment rights under the United States Constitution. These rights are not formalities. They protect ordinary citizens from intimidation and threats.

As a result of her arrest, Ms. Tillotson filed a misconduct complaint against the San Francisco officers who handcuffed her. She took her case to the Office of Citizen Complaints after San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told the Police Commission that the department would not pursue charges against her. Suhr apologized to Tillotson regarding the arrest and the distress it may have caused, yet he supported the actions of Sgt. Brian Stansbury and the other officers who arrested Ms. Tillotson.

Suhr made the apology at the same meeting in which the American Civil Liberties Union called for a review of police policy, saying the incident raised many questions about tactics of racial profiling and police practices in general.

Tillotson was held in a cell for an hour after she objected to the officers, attempts to take photos of her client and his co-defendant, who is also African-American. The men had just appeared in court regarding  charges of misdemeanor theft. As the arrest occurred, other attorneys with the Public Defender's Office filmed the event, which showed Sgt. Stansbury trying to take photos of the two men.

Tillotson stated, “As a result of my arrest, my client was left without the benefit of advice of counsel,” in her complaint to the Office of Citizen Complaints, an institution that investigates the misconduct of law enforcement officials and forwards the findings to the Police Commission.

This was an outrageous and unlawful exercise of police power. Such practices must be banned in the future.

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson