1,000 cases to be reviewed as bigoted text message probe expands 

click to enlarge Bigoted text messages revealed Friday in a federal court filing were sent by and to former Sgt. Ian Furminger and four other officers still employed by the department. - JONAH OWEN LAMB/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Jonah Owen Lamb/The S.F. Examiner
  • Bigoted text messages revealed Friday in a federal court filing were sent by and to former Sgt. Ian Furminger and four other officers still employed by the department.
An estimated 1,000 criminal cases are being reviewed for bias after the release Friday of bigoted text messages sent by a handful of San Francisco police officers — and the investigation into the episode included a look at other officers.

The text messages, revealed Friday in a federal court filing, were sent between 2011 and 2012 by and to former Sgt. Ian Furminger – convicted in December of corruption charges – and the four other officers still employed by the department. All four officers have been reassigned to positions with no public contact, pending the investigation.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Tuesday morning his office and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón are reviewing a decade of criminal cases possibly “tainted by former sergeant Ian Furminger and four current officers,” including Michael Robison, Noel Schwab, Rain Dougherty and Michael Celis.

“In order to ensure our criminal justice system is fair and equitable, my office is conducting an immediate assessment of every prosecution within the past ten years where these officers were involved,” noted a statement from Gascon about the text messages. “I have also asked the SFPD for any records they may have that will ensure the assessment is conducted thoroughly. This is a shameful incident that the public deserves to have addressed in a meaningful and expeditious manner.”

The number of additional officers who were looked in relation to the text messages was unspecified, according to a source in the department. The department’s spokesman Albie Esparza said while additional officers have been looked into, only the four are being formally investigated.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association didn’t return calls for comment on the expanded investigation, but they have already publicly condemned the text messages revealed Friday.

The revelation of the text messages came after a filing in the criminal case against Furminger, who was convicted in December in federal court on corruption charges related to incidents in 2009 that included theft and violating constitutional rights. He was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.

Also convicted then was former Officer Edmond Robles, who is represented by attorney Anthony Brass and set for sentencing Wednesday. Furminger has been ordered to surrender April 3 to federal authorities.

The court filing, which was a motion in opposition to Furminger’s request for bail pending an appeal of his conviction, didn’t name the officers who sent or received the emails. They did detail the text messages to illustrate Furmigner’s lack of character.

One of the many text messages included a response to a text asking, “Do you celebrate quanza [sic] at your school?” Furminger responded: “Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then we celebrate Whitemas.”

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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