Jury Gets Case of Officers Accused of Abducting, Robbing Transients
A Superior Court jury on Monday afternoon began deliberating the fate of two San Diego police officers charged with kidnaping and robbing illegal aliens, after a deputy district attorney sternly warned the jurors that the officers had abused their badge by preying on the defenseless.
Prosecutor Craig Rooten also sharply attacked officers Lloyd J. Hoff Jr. and Richard P. Schaaf for saying they were simply following Police Department policy when they removed the illegal aliens from downtown streets last August.
“Even if other officers have done the same very thing, that doesn’t make it right,” he said of the police roundup policy known as “Greyhound therapy” in which officers pick up transients downtown and dump them elsewhere. “And it doesn’t exonerate these two officers.”
Rooten also warned the jury not to sympathize with the officers’ defense that crime is rampant in the downtown district, and that aggressive police force is needed to beat back rising incidents of auto burglary and drug dealing.
“It may be that police officer frustrations on the streets have reached unbelievable levels,” he said. “But it hasn’t reached the point where it justifies the level of the conduct of these two officers.”
He called the three illegal aliens allegedly victimized in this case “prey to two bad cops.”
“If you’re going to rob somebody, you pick them,” he said of how the officers allegedly abused the three undocumented workers. “You don’t pick somebody in a business suit. You don’t pick somebody who can speak the language. You pick somebody who can’t fight back.”
Hoff and Schaaf are each charged with nine counts, ranging from kidnaping, kidnaping for robbery, robbery and using unnecessary force against the illegal aliens. They are on voluntary leave from the Police Department and, if convicted, could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison.
Evidence in the two-week trial has suggested that the three alleged victims were plucked off the downtown streets by the officers in two instances and dropped off at the same isolated area near 9th and Imperial avenues. Two of the undocumented workers contend they were robbed of cash, and one of the illegal aliens allegedly was struck in the testicles by Hoff.
But defense attorneys James Gattey and Everett Bobbitt said in their closing arguments to the jury that their clients never contacted one of the alleged victims, and produced police journals that showed Hoff and Schaaf were actually transporting a mentally disturbed man named “Lester” to the hospital rather than kidnaping the illegal alien.
In the other case, involving two undocumented workers, the defense lawyers argued that Hoff and Schaaf suspected one of the illegal aliens of possessing burglary tools. But later, when they realized that the jail would not accept the suspects on such a misdemeanor offense, the officers followed department policy by dropping them off in an area outside downtown.
“Do you actually believe that two officers of the San Diego Police Department are involved in hate crimes?” Gattey asked the jury.
“That they would throw their future to the wind and risk the possibility of future felony prosecution, just to harass and beat people? What sort of ridiculous allegation is that? What sort of ridiculous hypocrisy is that?”
The jurors did not reach a verdict Monday after receiving the case late in the afternoon. They are to continue their deliberations today.