Thursday, April 15, 2021
Uncategorized A trainwreck of a witness on final day of...

A trainwreck of a witness on final day of Nieto case

Man who says Nieto aimed a Taser at him and his dog also says he assumed the young man was a gang member, was distracted by a woman jogger's butt, and wished he could have shot Nieto himself

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One of the city’s star witnesses in the Alex Nieto case took the stand today, and the result was one of the worst legal train wrecks I’ve seen in years.

In his pre-trial deposition, which was quoted in court, and in his statements to the jury, Evan Snow, who was on Bernal Hill with his dog that night and said Nieto had threatened him, effectively admitted that:

— He had assumed Nieto might be a gang member because he was a Latino man wearing a red jacket, and based on Snow’s experience at Berkeley High School, that was grounds for concern that Nieto might be someone to fear.

“Given my experience at Berkeley High and the attire of gang members, I made a quick judgment to put Alex – Mr. Nieto – in that category of people I would not mess around with based on his attire at the time,” his deposition stated. “Berkeley High was very segregated. There were various gang factions and the Latino or Mexican gangsters would wear red windbreakers and black hats with flat bills, which is what Mr. Nieto was wearing.” He told the jury that “I saw him wearing clothes similar to what gang members wear.”

— He allowed his off-leash Siberian Husky, who was about a year old and aggressively pursued people with food, to chase Nieto because Snow was “distracted” by “an attractive female jogger” and was looking at her butt. One of the three most important things he remembers about the incident was the “jogger’s butt,” he said in a deposition.

— The dog was “barking and howling” at Nieto, Snow said in his deposition, although in court he said the better term was “vocalizing.”

— He texted a friend and said that he wished he was living in a state like Florida, where it would have been legal for him to shoot Nieto himself.

— He “might have” used a racial slur in referring to Nieto, but that was okay because his grandfather, who was Latino, sometimes used similar language.

— He talked about the joggers butt because he wanted to bring some levity and humor to the situation.

And Snow was supposed to be a witness for the city.

It boggles my mind that the City Attorney’s Office put him on the stand.

Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner asked Snow, who according to LinkedIn is a “User Experience Design Professional” at a tech company, to talk about that evening, and according to his testimony, he was walking his dog on the hill when he first saw Nieto.

He said he was immediately concerned because Nieto had “tight shoulders” and his “demeanor was very erratic.”

Snow’s dog ran over to Nieto, who was eating food, because the dog had a tendency to pursue people who might offer her a treat. At first he was able to call her back, but after he got distracted by the jogger’s butt, the dog took off again. He tried again to call the dog, but “she wasn’t responding, she was transfixed” by the food.

Nieto, Snow said, lifted his shirt (although by most accounts he was wearing a jacket) and showed what appeared to be a gun. He then “raised it in a menacing way.”

Snow, a registered gun owner, said he assumed the weapon was a pistol and that he was going to get shot. Nieto at this point had climbed up on a bench, possibly to get away from the barking dog.

Snow testified that Nieto the aimed the weapon at him and then at the dog – and at that point, it became clear that it was a Taser and not a pistol. Eventually, the dog returned to Snow, who quickly left the area. “I was very upset,” he said, and while he considered calling 911, he opted to call a non-emergency police number but couldn’t get through.

I don’t want in any way to dismiss the fear that Snow may have experienced if, as he testified, someone pointed what appeared to be a pistol at him. That’s a terrifying situation to be in. He said he feared for his life — “I thought I was going to die that night.” The fact that, after that experience, he never called 911 and gave up on contacting the police is a bit weird, although that’s not for me to judge.

But putting someone on the stand who essentially admitted to racial profiling and then made horribly insensitive comments … not good.

The idea of this witness, I suspect, was to give the jury the impression that Nieto was acting oddly (in his deposition, Snow said he thought the young man was mentally ill because he grew up in Berkeley and had worked in an office in the Tenderloin and thus had a lot of experience with mentally ill people), and was aggressive enough to aim his Taser at another person.

In the deposition, the Nieto family lawyers pointed out that it might not be unreasonable for a person who was being pursued by a loud, large, aggressive dog to react with fear.

But never mind that: The point was that the jury should see Nieto as a possible menace who was willing to pull his Taser and aim it at someone.

Snow did testify that he never saw a red laser dot from the Taser, didn’t know if it was even turned on, and never saw it fired.

But I walked away with two impressions: First, I’m not sure how any of this is relevant – the cops who responded knew nothing of Mr. Snow’s experience, since he had decided not to call 911 and gave up after not getting through on the non-emergency line. The fact that he might have pulled a Taser on a dog that he might have thought was attacking him has little bearing on whether a guy who studied criminology, had plenty of experience with the cops, and was a security guard would have pulled the weapon at armed officers who he knew would respond by shooting him.

Second, if the jury was supposed to find Snow’s dog story credible, I think any hope was utterly undone by the rest of his testimony.

When Lateef Gray, attorney for the Nieto family, asked about his references to the jogger’s butt, Snow said he was looking to put a little humor into the situation. I don’t think that plays well in a case about a young man’s death.

Nor does the fact that during a trial break, Baumgartner and the accused officers were joking and laughing — while Alex Nieto’s parents sat and watched the men who killed their son act like they were at some kind of a party.

 

After Snow was dismissed, Baumgartner did what defense lawyers always do at a certain point in the case: She asked the judge to grant what would amount to a dismissal. She said that “no reasonable jury” would believe the account by Antonio Theodore that contradicted the police version of events.

Adante Pointer, lawyer for the Nieto family, pointed out that, while the city was able to nitpick parts of Theodore’s testimony, nobody has directly challenged the essence of his claim, that Nieto was shot with his hands in his pockets and never pointed the Taser at the cops.

These dismissal motions are always a longshot – judges don’t like to take cases away from juries, and this one was no different. The judge said the city was welcome to try again after the trial was over, but for now, this case will go to the jury.

The city’s final witness was a man named Don Cameron, a former Berkeley cop and then BART cop (which alone gives me pause, but that’s another story, or two, or three) who now trains officers in the use of force. He also makes a lot of money working as an expert witness in police-abuse trials; he told me outside the courtroom that he charges $425 an hour for that work, and he has been on the stand hundreds of times.

Most of the time, he told me, he works with cities and departments where officers are accused of wrongdoing. Sometimes he works for plaintiffs, but not as often.

He testified that in the past few years he has been hired by the city to defend police actions at least 20 times. That’s a lucrative gig.

He said that everything the cops did in this case was just fine, perfectly in synch with their training, and that he saw nothing wrong whatsoever.

Pointer, in cross-examination, asked Cameron if it were true that in most cases, like this one, there are qualified experts on both sides who disagree. Yes, Cameron said, that’s the situation.

As it is here.

The defense rested its case after Cameron, and tomorrow morning the two sides will present closing arguments. Then it goes to the jury.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Evan, i knew Nieto very very well and all this was a miss conception and now you know how far discrimination can go. No one deserves to get shoot that many times and this is why any type of discrimination is not ok. I am also a firm believer that how you’re perceived is how you well get treated, but in this case, it went too far ….. I feel bad that you are in this position, but please lets be sensitive to his Mom and Father about their sons death and do whats right. All we need is you’re full honesty about what exactly happened and forget you’re racial profiling and have some humanity in you… One day you might be in a position that you will need a honest witness to help plied you’re case …You never know what curve balls life will throw at you like the position you are currently in. Be a blessings and do whats right !

  2. Amen ! Thank goodness for we homo-commie-artsyfartsy-agitprop types that city hall isn’t run by homeland security for the protection of libertarian speculator drones.

  3. Police brutality directed at minorities or people of color happens every day in this country. Usually the juries want to believe that the police are the upstanding members of society, and that anyone who was shot or hurt by the police must have been doing something wrong. This is the main reason it is difficult to convict policemen on trial.
    This is by far the worst of all the high profile cases over the last couple of years, including the death of Michael Brown in Missouri, the Sandra Blount videotape, and the killing of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore police . This case is remarkable because it takes police brutality to a new pinnacle of chilling horror. The manner in which Mr. Nieto was summarily executed by multiple cops indicates an intensity of violence and hatred which is rare even in a society as violent as America. It is worse in fact than a futuristic horror movies which depict multiple armed and faceless gangs of Gestapo like police force keeping order on a de-humanized population. And its not 100 years from now, its today.

  4. Please address this: Evan Snow then claimed to a friend that he wished he were “in a state like Florida” where he could just have killed Alex Nieto. You want to kill someone because YOUR DOG scared him, he FEARED FOR HIS LIFE, but you’re the victim? We know you’re a registered gun owner and knew immediately that the taser was not a gun.

  5. So, when your company is determining whether or not to give someone in the Latino community a loan, do they take into consideration if the person is wearing a flat brim? If they’re wearing red?

  6. Evan, your attempt to explain your time on the stand is revealing. First, I recently had a large dog lunge towards me. As it barked and gnashed (showed) its teeth, I too thought it was over for me. What saved me was though the handler was too not paying attention, the dog was on a leach. So to answer your question of what could you “have done differently to save this guy’s life”, was keep your dog on a leach. In addition, Alex might be still alive if he had shot your dog with his Taser. Because as you would have been crying about what happened to get your dog shot by a Taser, the responding officers would have known once they arrived that it was not a real gun. And no I am not giving an out for the police. They were wrong and their training is wrong, in my unbiased opinion. I’ve seen police to some great work when they thought no one was looking.

  7. Excuse me if I don’t believe you. What you call “bias,” I call Redmond’s declining to kiss your butt in print. Redmond’s description of your testimony did not involve any perjorative words to describe you as a person. In fact, there’s a paragraph where he tries to understand your POV. What I do see is Redmond letting you hang yourself with your own offensive words and actions.
    Interestingly enough, you haven’t denied or regretted the text you made about wanting to shoot Nieto yourself. Now why is that?

  8. Jesus christ dude. The “truth” is irrelevant; all that matters what can be demonstrated in court. You think witnesses get caught every time they perjure themselves? You must be a pretty bad liar. Behaving unethically and illegally is often advantageous, as long as you don’t get caught. Maybe instead of giving irrelevant testimony that makes you look like a douche, one could omit the “i was to busy looking at her tits” explaination.

  9. Newsflash:

    Admitting in court to racial profiling and that you were too busy eye-fucking a cute girl in tights to remember important details clearly makes you look bad. A non-idiot would have simply lied effectively and stuck to their story.

  10. News flash:

    Heterosexual people frequently look at the butts of opposite sex joggers as they run by.

    Yup. Strange but true.

  11. Damn that witness is an idiot. If you really are that racist/sexist, at least learn to lie more convincingly.

  12. Hi everyone – this is Evan here. As you can tell from the headline, this article is has a bias against me. If you’ve ever spent a half hour being grilled and cross-examined, you might slip up. I made a mistake under duress with the line about the jogger’s butt and I don’t deserve to be publicly chastised for it. My “tech” company is a mission-based fair lending company dedicated to serving the Latino community, work that I’m very proud to have found given the difficulty in finding service-based work in design. Don’t believe everything you read. Tim Redmond is trying to flame the rhetoric. I thought I was going to die that day because there was no way to distinguish Nieto’s Taser from a pistol except under close examination. You might not say the nicest things about someone you thought was going to kill you, either, especially 10 minutes after the ordeal when you’re still catching your breath from the shock. I’m very sorry for the outcome with the police and I wish things happened differently. Every day I ask myself what I could have done differently to save this guy’s life. Peace to you all.

  13. So… A tech bro racially profiled a latino and then insensitively objectified a woman (as part of sworn testimony) to add some levity to his murder deposition? Huh, color me surprised.

  14. Hey it’s San Francisco a sanctuary city run by a progressive/liberal city council that has a homeless crisis and hate their own police force this is normal

Comments are closed.

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