I was without words. I think I mumbled something about how I would like to wait a year or so to see how he performed, before writing a story about him. After I told him I wasn't interested in profiling him, he declined to cooperate on a Mentor Court story, apparently deciding that if it wasn't about him, it wasn't worth his time.
Vernon Grigg surely couldn't have anticipated, then, that just enough time would have passed for me to write about him, now.
A high-ranking SFPD source says Grigg was informed about every step in the yearlong investigation into drug dealing at the Marcus Garvey/MLK projects.
When it came down to the day of the raid, though, it was decided that Grigg would not be informed. It was an easy decision to make; there was no operational reason to tell him. He had no specific role to play in the raid. And the arguments in favor of not telling him were compelling, if not conclusive.
Grigg is a longtime acquaintance of Van Jones, the self-described "loudmouth" police brutality activist who often seems as interested in headlines as in making any headway against police abuse, and who has a propensity for getting his facts wrong. The two went to law school together at Yale.
Earlier this year, Jones produced a surprise witness to the fatal police shooting of a young woman named Sheila Detoy. The witness presented herself at a press conference, and later met with District Attorney Hallinan while he was inspecting the scene of the shooting with Grigg, a well-placed source tells me. Grigg facilitated the woman's testimony in the case against the police.
There was nothing untoward about Grigg's actions -- after all, the DA was investigating the police shooting. And the DA's Office subsequently decided not to seek charges in the matter. (SFPD internal affairs investigators are still looking at the case.) But because the woman was under investigation as part of a credit card fraud case at the time she offered her testimony against the officers involved in the Detoy shooting, and that case has yet to be charged by the DA, Grigg's involvement has become a point of contention and suspicion among many cops and prosecutors.
There's another reason Grigg was not informed of the date and time of the raid.
And this reason had nothing to do with distrust, or whether it was rightly or wrongly conceived. It had to do with very real security concerns.
Grigg, as I said, runs the District Attorney's Mentor Court program. One of his deputies on that project is a young man named Ranon Ross. Ross used to live in the Marcus Garvey/MLK projects, and some of his relatives still live there. Those running the Knock Out Posse operation did not want there to be any risk whatsoever that anyone in the projects would learn of the raid, accidentally or otherwise.
The proper execution of the raid did not require Grigg's inclusion in it. Good law enforcement agencies always exercise an overabundance of caution in regard to sensitive operations. During those operations, it's also standard law enforcement procedure to share information only with those who need to know it.
So Vernon Grigg was not told about the Knock Out Posse raid ahead of time for many reasons, some more legitimate than others. If Grigg's feelings were hurt because he'd been cut out of the loop, he could have gone to Mazzucco and his superiors and told them so. Things might have been handled in an honorable fashion, man to man. But there's not much that's very admirable about what happened to Tippy Mazzucco.
Vernon Grigg happens to be African-American. He is one of Terry Hallinan's chosen, affirmative-action hires.
After his out-of-the-loop status in the project raid became known to other black prosecutors, they called a meeting with Hallinan, a man who has always seemed willing to accept the politics of perceived racism unquestioningly.
The African-American prosecutorial committee -- which, law enforcement sources say, included one of Mayor Willie Brown's ex-girlfriends, Kamala Harris, and the head of the DA's homicide division, Murlene Randall -- laid it out simply for Hallinan: Mazzucco was a racist because his decision to cut Grigg out of the raid showed how the old guard was refusing to work with the new-guard minorities brought in and advanced by Hallinan.
While Harris and Randall were making these arguments to their boss, Grigg was running around asserting that the federally funded post Mazzucco occupied, called the housing deputy, should be transferred to the narcotics division, where Grigg would control it, several law enforcement sources say.
And at the same time, Grigg was hitting up Mayor Brown to be appointed to the Housing Commission, the public body that oversees the management and funding of public housing projects, including the Marcus Garvey/MLK development.
It doesn't take an idiot to see empire-building when it's happening right under your nose. But Hallinan, a radical turned liberal, ate up the racism argument and never bothered to put the other pieces of the puzzle together.
Word went out: Hallinan thought Mazzucco had acted on racist impulse, and he was being banished to the Siberia of the preliminary hearings unit, where he could contemplate his racist ways.