- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The city's police department is being led by a man under indictment for a felony since prosecutors charged the chief and his top commanders with conspiring to cover up three off-duty officers' roles in a brawl about a bag of fajitas.
Police Chief Earl Sanders was booked and released Friday after being charged with covering up the roles, but after a two-hour closed-door session the city's Police Commission decided to keep Chief Sanders on the job.
The chief "has the full support of the commission in carrying out his duties and responsibilities," the panel said in a written statement. Commissioners said they will meet again tomorrow to discuss the issue further.
Ten officers have been indicted on felony charges, including three charged with beating two men in front of a bar just after closing in November. Chief Sanders and six other ranking officers were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice for purportedly trying to cover up the fight.
Chief Sanders has asked the state to investigate whether prosecutors exceeded their authority in the case.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that the felony indictments handed up against Chief Sanders and nine other officers went beyond what San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan had sought.
A spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said yesterday that Chief Sanders' attorney requested an "abuse of discretion review" of how Mr. Hallinan handled the grand jury.
"Prosecutors obviously are given by law an incredible amount of discretion to investigate crimes and make prosecutorial decisions. And it is possible, although it is a high standard, to abuse that discretion," Mr. Lockyer's spokesman Nathan Barankin said.
He said state lawyers would take weeks to review Chief Sanders' request. If they decide that Mr. Hallinan acted improperly, the investigation into the brawl would begin anew, Mr. Barankin said.
The Chronicle, citing unidentified sources in the prosecutor's office, said Mr. Hallinan had sought more limited charges than those the grand jury issued.
Although grand jurors swear not to discuss their cases, one told the newspaper that the panel deliberated fairly and reached its decision based on the facts.
"None of us took this lightly," the juror said. "We knew this would impact the city at all levels; it would impact all these people's lives and their family's lives."
The seven men indicted for obstruction were released on their own recognizance, and the three officers charged with assault were released on bail, sheriff's department officials said.
After Chief Sanders was retained as chief, an attorney for one of the other indicted officers said Chief Sanders can decide whether the other men will be suspended or remain on the job.
The Police Commission acted after San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who appointed Chief Sanders police chief in July, predicted that the indicted commanders will be exonerated and urged that they be allowed to retain command.
"I don't think they deserve to be so vilified," Mr. Brown told the commissioners. "To have any of these officers suffer the humiliation of a suspension would be a travesty at best and a hostile act at worst."
Earlier, Mr. Brown said the indictments were an overreaction by Mr. Hallinan, a political rival.
"I do not believe that there is any conduct that merits felonious attention," Mr. Brown told KRON-TV.

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