San Francisco Investigator Disciplined for Issuing Subpoena 'Under False Pretenses'

The San Francisco Hall of Justice. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

An investigator for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office was admonished in June 2016 for issuing a faulty subpoena, according to the first such peace officer disciplinary records released by city agencies under a new state transparency law.

The documents were provided in response to a public records request by KQED and the Bay Area News Group. The DA's office is still reviewing records and may produce more misconduct cases, according to a response issued Friday evening.

Inspector Steve Harris wrote an April 20, 2016 subpoena to a Georgia-based sales company demanding personnel files for a defendant facing grand theft and embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing from the Target store where he worked.

But the case wasn't active at the time — the prosecution had been diverted to a neighborhood court, which the defendant allegedly skipped — and Harris had been directed only to issue a misdemeanor arrest warrant, according to the written admonishment.

Attempts to reach Harris Monday were unsuccessful.

The misconduct investigation found that Harris wrote a police report number on the subpoena instead of a court number, and he wrote his own office number as the court presiding over the case.

"The issued DA subpoena was incorrect ... and presented in an effort to gain documents under false pretenses," the admonishment says.

According to testimony in an unrelated criminal case, Harris was on thin ice at the time he was disciplined.

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Another district attorney's inspector testified that Harris was removed in early 2016 from the high-profile criminal investigation of two former Alameda County sheriff's deputies who were captured on surveillance video savagely beating an apparently surrendering suspect who'd led them on a high-speed chase into San Francisco.

The deputies, Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber, were later fired and now face felony assault and battery charges.

Inspector Paul Tejada testified in March that Harris had made statements about never wanting to pursue a case against a police officer, and added that Harris no longer worked for the DA's office.

Attorney Michael Rains, who represents Santamaria, read from an internal DA's office memo during the hearing: "Steve seemed to me to suffer from an insurmountable pro-police bias," it said.

The DA's office did not provide any records related to Harris' removal from the Santamaria and Wieber investigation.

His employment with the DA's office ended in May 2017, according to state peace officer certification records.

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