A former investigator at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office claimed in a lawsuit he was fired after alleging that prosecutors investigating a fatal police shooting attempted to obtain officers' cell phone records using improper search warrants.
The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court in early November by former investigator Jeffrey Pailet, who claims he was fired in 2020 by Boudin and the D.A.'s chief of staff, David Campos, in retaliation for his efforts to expose alleged wrongdoing during an investigation of an unspecified 2017 police shooting.
At the time, Pailet was a member of the department's Independent Investigations Bureau, charged with ensuring investigations and prosecutions were done in compliance with state and federal law. Pailet claimed the D.A. investigators withheld key details when writing search warrants for officers' cell phone records, and that he was fired after attempting to expose those missteps.
The District Attorney's office referred a request for comment to the City Attorney's Office.
"The city is committed to a workplace free of retaliation," said Jen Kwart, spokesperson for City Attorney David Chiu. "Mr. Pialet filed this matter in court and that is where we will respond."
Pailet claimed to have observed and reported illegal activity by two or more assistant prosecutors as they drafted search warrants and affidavits while investigating the police shooting. Pailet claimed his findings were at first ignored by the D.A. officials and that he was threatened and finally terminated, according to the complaint.
The case that led to his firing involved an incident in which officers responded to a disturbance call. According to the suit, officers encountered an aggressive person who kicked one of the officers. A struggle ensued during which an officer was punched in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him down a flight of stairs, the complaint said. The suspect then allegedly attacked a second officer. Pepper spray did not subdue the suspect and he was shot with a service revolver. He later died.
Pialet's complaint does not specify the 2017 police shooting, but the description parallels the shooting of Sean Moore. San Francisco Police Officer Kenneth Cha has pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other charges Boudin's office filed in connection with the shooting.
San Francisco agreed to a $3.25 million settlement to a civil rights lawsuit Moore filed against the city, Cha and his partner, Colin Patino, alleging excessive force and other violations. After he died in January 2020 in prison while serving time for an unrelated crime, Moore's parents took over the lawsuit. An autopsy revealed the gunshot wound contributed to his death.
The officers were initially cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting and the case closed under former D.A. George Gascón. But Boudin reopened the case after he took office in 2020.
After voicing his concerns, Pialet was denied access to the case file in retaliation, even though he was the supervising investigator on the team, according to the suit.
There were internal complaints and an investigation which ultimately led to Pailet's firing in November 2020, according to the complaint. He appealed the firing and it was upheld on April 23, 2021.
The suit maintains that the firing of Pailet was politically motivated and requested an investigation by the California State Bar.
"Jeff Pailet has pursued all available avenues to get his job back and it appears they have refused to do any investigation, look into his complaints or reinstate him, said Olivia Leary, an attorney for Pailet.
"Due to that he has been forced to file a lawsuit in order to pursue financial damages for his wage loss."
Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] . Twitter:@samwhitingsf
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