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Monday, September 26, 2022

Opinion: Boudin prosecutes disgraced cop for domestic violence after Sacramento DA failed

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By Gil Duran

Judging by his track record of arrests over the past year, former Sacramento police officer Justin Shepard is a dangerous and violent criminal who can’t stop beating up his girlfriend.

Last May, the Sacramento Police Department arrested Shepard after his girlfriend alleged he hit her, strangled her, pointed a gun at her and also threatened to kill her and dispose of her body in a Northern California lake. The office of Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a former Republican running as an independent candidate for California attorney general, did not file charges.

Three months later, police responded to another domestic violence call involving Shepard. This incident, however, happened in San Francisco — a city with a DA who Schubert loves to attack as weak on crime. On Aug. 6, SFPD officers responded to reports of a domestic violence incident involving Shepard and the same victim at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Fourth Street. Officers found the distraught woman, who took off her mask to reveal a bloody mouth. Shepard, she told them, was a police officer who had a previous arrest for attacking her in Sacramento.

“The victim was visibly upset and crying and appeared confused as to what to do,” wrote an SFPD officer in an incident report. “She provided some insight with prior issues with the male and said she has unsuccessfully (been) able to obtain help with her efforts with Sacramento PD with prior incidents.”

With the victim unwilling to fully cooperate with police that day, SFPD officers let Shepard go. Upon further review, however, SFPD presented a warrant charging him with felony domestic violence and assault. On Aug. 12, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office decided to prosecute him on those charges. If convicted, Shepard faces up to four years in prison.

Here’s where the plot thickens. After Boudin charged Shepard, Schubert’s office reversed course and charged Shepard in the May incident. Her office also requested San Francisco cede jurisdiction to Sacramento, but Boudin’s office declined.

“Your office decided not to charge Mr. Shepard for a May 6, 2021 domestic violence incident that occurred in Sacramento County,” wrote S.F. deputy DA Evanthia Pappas to Sacramento deputy DA Sam Nong on March 15. “When Mr. Shepard committed another domestic violence crime in San Francisco three months later on August 6, 2021, our office charged Mr. Shepard on August 12, 2021 by way of felony warrant and he was arrested in your county on or about August 13, 2021. Mr. Shepard was subsequently charged by your county on the previously discharged May 6, 2021 incident on August 16, 2021.”

“Our office was the first of three counties (San Francisco, Sacramento, Solano) to file charges against Justin Shepard,” Pappas continued. “We are not ceding jurisdiction to Sacramento, but our request for Sacramento to cede jurisdiction to our county remains.”

That’s right, three counties. In December, after his arrests in Sacramento and San Francisco, Shepard was also charged with a domestic violence offense in Solano County. Clearly, Shepard’s predilection for violence was so out of control that he should have been behind bars, not in a police uniform. But that much seemed clear after Shepard’s May 6 arrest in Sacramento.

“Victim Doe” laid out a tale of ongoing and horrific abuse to Sacramento police, according to documents obtained by The Examiner. After meeting Shepard on the dating app Bumble, she said, their relationship eventually turned abusive. Shepard had physically abused her “six-seven times” during the first year of their relationship, the victim said.

“He has tackled me, he has grabbed me by my throat, he has made me pass out, he has slammed my head down,” she told officers. “He will grab (me) by the arm and slam me into the wall.”

She recounted a more recent incident when he attacked her in the shower, punching her in the leg so hard it caused her to fall and hit her head. She told police Shepard had pointed a gun at her several times. She also alleged that, after she became pregnant, Shepard had threatened to kill her unless she got an abortion.

“He said he would hunt me down in Redding and throw my body in Whiskeytown Lake,” she told officers, according to police reports. “He has told me he will hire a gang banger from Del Paso Heights or wherever he works, he’s like, do you know what 5 grand will get you? And then he told me he would have me killed by some gang banger for 5 grand.”

The victim detailed all of this to Sacramento police, who took the investigation seriously and spoke to several witnesses who supported the victim’s claims. These witnesses included an uncle who works in law enforcement and a neighbor who reported hearing “a lot of screaming and sort of loud thumping.”

Officers reported the victim had pictures on her phone that showed injuries she said Shepard had previously inflicted. During a search of Shepard’s work locker, they found syringes filled with unknown liquid along with opioid pills, which matched the victim’s allegations that Shepard had been injecting “testosterone” (which turned out to be anabolic steroids) and using painkillers without a prescription.

Yet Schubert’s office did not prosecute him. So, why did the Sacramento DA have sudden change of heart after Boudin decided to charge Shepard? Did her office make a mistake by not charging the officer before he had a chance to commit further assaults? Did new evidence turn up? Or did the decision to let the Shepard off the hook become politically untenable after Boudin decided to hold him accountable?

“When we declined to file charges, the case was still an active and open investigation,” said Sacramento assistant chief deputy DA Dawn Bladet in a statement. “Based on additional information that was obtained during the course of that investigation, we determined there was sufficient evidence to proceed with filing the case. Our ethical obligations as prosecutors prevent us from commenting on our deliberative process or the specific facts of pending prosecutions.”

What an amazing coincidence that Schubert’s office waited three months to charge Shepard, who no longer works as a Sacramento police officer, and then filed charges three days after Boudin’s office did. A spokesperson for Schubert’s office said Shepard now faces charges of four counts of felony domestic violence, one felony charge of false imprisonment and one misdemeanor count of possession of anabolic steroids in Sacramento County.

This week — National Victims’ Rights Week — Schubert took to Twitter to emphasize her role as an advocate for victims and express support for the recall campaign against Boudin. San Francisco’s DA makes an easy political target for the longtime Republican, but the shtick is wearing thin. Examine Schubert’s record closely and it doesn’t take long to find questionable decisions of the kind she regularly accuses others of making.

In the disturbing case of Shepard — a disgraced Sacramento police officer who allegedly beat his girlfriend and threatened to kill her, all while using illegal substances — the Sacramento DA has scrambled to follow Boudin’s lead.

gduran@sfexaminer.com, @gilduran76

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