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Officer Defends Handling of Aliens : Trial: Lloyd J. Hoff Jr. testifies that it would have been unproductive to arrest the men he and a partner are accused of kidnaping and robbing.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Speaking for the first time in his own defense, one of two San Diego police officers being tried on charges of kidnaping and robbing illegal aliens testified Thursday that he and his partner had actually planned to arrest two undocumented workers they picked up in the downtown but later decided against taking them to jail.

Lloyd J. Hoff Jr. said he and Officer Richard P. Schaaf drove around to two sites with the illegal aliens locked inside the back of their patrol car, eventually deciding to drop them off at an area frequented by transients rather than taking them to jail.

Asked why he did not process the arrest of the illegal aliens, Hoff said: “You could call it a lack of interest.”

The two officers, who are on voluntary leave from the department, are on trial in San Diego Superior Court on felony charges of kidnaping three illegal aliens and robbing two of them in separate incidents last August. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

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They insist that they did not violate the illegal aliens’ constitutional rights by detaining them and moving them out of the downtown without first placing them under arrest. A host of officers testified this week that the roundup practice, characterized in court as “Greyhound therapy,” is commonly used by the Police Department to rid the downtown streets of undesirable transients.

All testimony ended in the trial on Thursday, with Schaaf never taking the stand to tell his side of the events that led to their arrests. However, Hoff gave the jury a detailed version of what he claims happened with the illegal aliens.

He said he and Schaaf were approaching the 5th Avenue and C Street trolley stop when he noticed two men hiding behind a doorway. Believing they were preparing to rob waiting passengers, the officers stopped their car and Hoff beckoned to the men.

He said he frisked one of them and found spark plug parts, which he said are commonly used to break car windows.

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But, before he could question the men, a trolley approached, and Hoff and Schaaf had to move their patrol car. As the officers did so, he said, the illegal aliens “crawled into the car.”

With the undocumented workers in the back seat, the officers were then dispatched to meet other officers at a parking lot near 5th Avenue and G Street. From there, Hoff said, they were sent to a traffic accident at 11th Avenue and Market Street, where Hoff helped direct traffic.

The two men were kept inside, and, after leaving the traffic scene, Hoff said he decided to drop them off in an isolated area, rather than booking them into jail. He said he made that decision because it was unlikely the jail would keep them just for carrying what appeared to be burglary tools.

“I decided that would not be very productive,” Hoff said.

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Under cross-examination by Deputy Dist. Atty. Craig Rooten, Hoff acknowledged that the door handles in the back of the patrol car did not work, that there were no window handles, and that, basically, the two men were locked inside the car. He also said that, had the men gotten out and run away, he would have chased them.

But he denied robbing them, just as he denied ever having any contact with the third illegal alien on the second alleged incident.

In that case, Hoff said, he and Schaaf were transporting a mentally disturbed man to the county mental health facility at the time the alleged victim testified that he was kidnaped and robbed by the officers.


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