Trial by Liar

The snitches mumbled, stumbled, equivocated, and perjured themselves The jury found Bernard Temple -- the man prosecutors believed to be a bloodthirsty assassin for drug dealers -- not guilty of murder.

Temple was, of course, a main target.
During the summer of 1995, the CRUSH team rousted a bunch of low-level dealers in a warehouse in Hunters Point. Cedric Geter, a crack dealer and addict, was among them. CRUSH officers knew Geter well. He had snitched for officers on the team since 1990.

During the time he informed for the SFPD and CRUSH, Geter developed an uncanny talent for avoiding prosecution for serious, often violent, crime. He could be rightly called the teflon con.

Police reports show that from 1991 until 1995, Geter was suspected of, detained for, or arrested in connection with two car thefts, three assaults with a deadly weapon (shootings and stabbings), two simple assaults, and one robbery (during which he was suspected of shooting a bar patron). Some of these cases involved CRUSH officers. None resulted in a for-mal charge.

Unless you were there, it's impossible to know what truly passed between a crackhead and a cop in a warehouse in the middle of the night in the nether world of Hunters Point. Geter said in court that he wasn't busted with any drugs that night. But for some reason -- and it's a good bet it wasn't civic pride -- he decided, four years after the fact, to tell an SFPD officer he'd seen Bernard Temple kill Jacky Williams.

Cedric Geter, the crack dealer and addict, was passed off to the feds in September.

CRUSH developed another snitch that year, Lawrence Broussard, a con who was married to Temple's sister-in-law. Broussard was a fugitive, a parolee who went rabbit after he picked up an assault with a deadly weapon charge. Sometime in 1996, CRUSH officers rousted him on the fugitive charge. The veritable pharmacy of heroin and crack they found on him helped convince him to start ratting. Broussard was passed over to LaFreniere as well.

He told the FBI agent about several homicides allegedly committed by Temple. He said he had witnessed the Jacky Williams homicide. He said Temple had teased him about witnessing the Williams murder.

"You were in that store," Temple told Broussard, according to FBI documents. "You could be slippin'. You could have been got, too."

In March 1996, task force investigators were ready to strike at their first target, the Michael gang, 17 people suspected of running a crack ring. The feds arrested the gang in pre-dawn raids in several Bay Area cities. Much of the information used to get the arrest warrants was based on wiretaps planted the year before. Those taps were approved by a federal judge based on information provided by Magee and Geter and two other task force snitches. Several pounds of crack and powder cocaine and a vast arsenal of weapons -- one lying next to a sleeping baby -- were confiscated.

Initial press reports quoted law enforcement sources who accused the gang of being violent, of ordering hits on people. But when the feds made their case in court, it was founded on run-of-the-mill cocaine trafficking conspiracy charges.

For some reason, the feds did not go after Bernard Temple. Instead, in August, Floyd Andrews presented the Temple case to a state grand jury. Magee, Broussard, Geter, and Leoncio White, under pressure from federal investigators, testified.

Almost as soon as he had testified against Temple, though, Magee began turning on his law enforcement friends. He started meeting with defense attorneys in the Michael case, telling them that parts of the information he had given to LaFreniere and other federal investigators were false. He called Temple, telling the supposed hit man that the grand jury had indicted and his arrest was imminent.

Magee met with Temple's first attorney, Michael Burt, and later with Lefcourt, telling both men he had lied to the grand jury. He drew a map for Burt, providing the public defender with an account of the Mullins murder that made it impossible, given the positioning of Mullins and Temple and the direction in which the killer ran, for Temple to be the shooter.

Later, Magee did himself one better. The government snitch signed a declaration for Lefcourt, the defense attorney. Under penalty of perjury, Kel Magee swore in writing that he had lied in his testimony to the grand jury.

As the year went on, the state's case against Temple disintegrated, witness by witness, snitch by snitch. Cedric Geter, the crack dealer and addict, the ultimate teflon con, was arrested and charged with chasing a man down a street in Bayview-Hunters Point and filling him full of lead. Broussard was shot dead in East Palo Alto, in what Andrews still believes was a retaliatory hit.

And Andrews' main witness, Magee, was a liar out to undercut him, and Andrews knew it. How could the prosecutor expect decent testimony from him at trial? How could he expect the declaration not to nullify his statements?

Andrews and the other task force members had a decision to make: Do we dismiss the charges against Bernard Temple and investigate further, hoping to refile those and, perhaps, other charges later?

The argument for a dismissal was compelling. Aside from Magee and Geter, the prosecution had no eyewitnesses.

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