SF to pay $13.1 million to man who was framed by cops

Settlement ends the horror story that was the Jamal Trulove case -- but none of the people charged with putting an innocent man in jail has faced any discipline. Plus: The right sign for the Harvey Milk Terminal and report that shows where the real housing crisis is. That's The Agenda for March 18-24

The Board of Supes is set to approve Tuesday/19 a $13.1 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by a young man who, a jury found, was framed by the SFPD for a murder he did not commit.

Jamal Trulove spent more than six years in prison for killing his friend Seu Kuka. His sentence was overturned on appeal, after the appellate court found that the SF District Attorney’s Office had presented faulty evidence to the jury. “This yarn was made of whole cloth,” Presiding Justice Anthony Kline wrote.

The Trulove case is a horror story of bad policing and prosecution. The cops tagged Trulove, an African-American living in the Sunnydale Housing Project, as a “gang member” when he was only 12, the lawsuit states. He was once detained, the complaint states, along with his brothers who were seven and eight years old, after an argument on a basketball court; the cops said he was “associating with future gang members.”

His conviction in the Kuka killing, the suit argues, was the result of “serious misconduct by the San Francisco Police Department officers investigating the Kuka shooting. SFPD manipulated an eyewitness … into misidentifying Mr. Trulove as the shooter. Defendants then hid the blatantly improper means they had used to obtain the misidentification.”

The suit named Officers Maureen D’Amico and Michael Johnson, who oversaw the investigation, along with 19 others involved in the case.

At the time of his arrest, Trulove was a father, actor, and hip-hop performer who had just been on the national TV show I Love New York 2.

After he was released from prison, a jury awarded him $10 million. His lawyers asked for another $4.5 million in attorney’s fees. The settlement is a clear statement by the city that the SFPD and the DA’s Office screwed up, badly, and deeply damaged the life of an innocent man.

The lawsuit discusses some of the horrors that an innocent man had to suffer in prison. In San Quentin, he was stabbed for mistakenly failing to cede the lower bunk in his cell to a prison gang member. He was moved to a prison in Southern California where his family couldn’t visit. He was later in a violent prison where most of the time the ward was on “lockdown” meaning he and his cellmate had to stay in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell almost 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, his kids grew up without him.

This tragic framing of an innocent person by SFPD has happened before.

And, as was the case with the John Tennison story, which cost the city $4.5 million, none of the people involved at SFPD and the DA’s Office have faced any discipline at all.

There’s no provision in city law that requires any sort of automatic disciplinary review of officers or prosecutors who are named in a civil lawsuit – even if a jury finds that they were guilty of misconduct and the verdict costs the city millions.

That might be something for the supes to ask about when they approve paying the $13 million.

The supes will also consider a measure to force the airport to follow the board’s direction and make it clear that the international terminal is actually named Harvey Milk Terminal.

The airport’s original plans made Milk’s name so small that it appeared as an afterthought. Now. Sup. Hillary Ronen wants to give clear direction that the words Harvey Milk Terminal have to be at least four feet high on the building, and Terminal 1 has to be half that size.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission will hear the 2018 Housing Inventory Report, which shows that housing production at all levels is down from last year. A total of 2,600 market-rate units were added, down 41 percent from 2017, and only 645 affordable units, down 56 percent.

But that’s not because of Nimbys blocking approval: The planners approved and entitled 72 projects with a total of 4,552 units. The vast majority were in buildings of more than 20 units, most of them condos.

In fact, since 1999, the city has authorized the construction of 62,500 housing units, and 45,500 have been built.

Why isn’t more housing going up? It has a lot more to do with capital markets and investment money – and the rapidly increasing cost of construction – than with the Yimby narrative that it’s too hard to get a building permit.

Another twist: The city approved 138 new accessory dwelling units, an fancy name for in-law apartments, which seems like a pretty small number. And those count toward the total of 645 affordable units.

That’s odd because, while ADUs are under rent control, they start off at market rate, which is hardly affordable to most San Franciscans.

Here’s the real news: The city has already allowed 96 percent of the high-end housing units we are supposed to authorize by 2022, under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment. So if you believe in the RHNA, which Gov. Newsom seems to, San Francisco doesn’t really need to allow more than a handful of new market-rate projects.

But only 15 percent of the moderate-income units, 32 percent of the low-income units, and 45 percent of the very-low income units have been constructed.

That’s the housing crisis.