Officer Down

Steve Landi was a hero at 101 California and a cop to his bones. Why is the SFPD trying so hard to get rid of him?

In hindsight, Paige says he is unable to remember many of the details of the charges he made against Landi, and some of the things he does claim to remember do not jibe with his grand jury testimony. Before the grand jury, for instance, Paige seemed to imply that Landi and other officers lied in a police report about who retrieved specific items during a drug arrest. But in an interview, Paige says he took issue with the report because "the whole thing that led up to the probable cause was not what happened."

But as a backup officer, Paige was not involved in determining probable cause for the arrest. He was merely called in to show the uniform and assist in detaining the suspect. Paige could cite no other discrepancies that he remembered about the report, or explain exactly what it was Landi supposedly told him to lie about. Paige also says that, during the arrest, he did not see Landi or Fagundes steal any money or property. "[Gudelj] asked me if money was taken, and I didn't see any money taken," Paige says.

But Paige remains adamant that -- during the traffic stop meeting -- Landi and Tobin tried to intimidate him, and he even recalls a remarkable detail. When Tobin's car stopped, Paige now says, "Landi had his hands between his legs, out of view. What was in them, I couldn't tell you, because I didn't see."

If Landi was in fact hiding a weapon, as Paige says he inferred, that would seem to be an important fact that Paige would have mentioned to the grand jury. But it was not in his testimony. Under oath, Paige had told the grand jury, "[Landi] didn't say anything that was hostile or angry toward me, but just the fact of his mere presence ... after what I had known, was totally out of character."

If Landi disputes Paige's charges, Paige says, then so be it. "As for me being a liar, if I was a liar, I would have gone in the grand jury and lied for him, so therefore I am not a liar."

At the criminal trial, however, the jurors did not believe Paige.

"One of the things I walked away from that trial with is, 'Oh my God, the city of San Francisco has this guy [Paige] walking around with a gun," says juror Michael Mitchell, who found Paige frightening. "I mean, this guy was scary. He was scary looking, and when he started talking he was even scarier."

And the accusations Paige made seemed petty in contrast to the other charges in the case, Mitchell says. "Landi told him to stick to the report, and it was proven throughout the trial that the report was accurate," says Mitchell. "It was terribly stupid and insignificant."

Insignificant for the criminal trial, perhaps, but not for Landi's future.

Even before the grand jury had finished its work, Steve Landi was told to come to police headquarters to be interviewed about his supposed bullying and intimidation of Officer John Paige.

Landi, aware that he was already a target of the grand jury probe, wanted an attorney to attend the interview with him. But on the morning of the day he was to submit to questioning, Landi was told by the Police Officer's Association that Earl Disselhorst would no longer be his lawyer. (The reasons for the change are unclear. Landi says he was told Disselhorst had a conflict of interest and could not continue to represent him. Disselhorst says that's not true, and that he was never given a full explanation as to why the POA would no longer pay him to represent Landi.)

A scramble to find a new lawyer ensued, and the POA finally arranged for attorney Mark Nicco to take over Landi's case. Nicco, who would stay with Landi from then on and represent him at the criminal trial, says he learned of the scheduled interview with Landi just minutes before it was set to start.

"It's Friday afternoon. It's a big case, with a lot of discovery and quite a history," Nicco recalls. "I haven't even met Steve Landi yet."

Nicco asked if the interview could be postponed until Monday so he could have a chance to meet with his brand-new client and bone up on what was taking place. "They said, 'Well, if he's not here by 5 o'clock with or without counsel, he'll be suspended,'" Nicco says. "I told them, 'Well, given the choice of appearing with counsel or without counsel, we'll have to choose with counsel, and I can't be there.'

"At 5 o'clock, I received a fax saying he was suspended."

Before the indictments had even come down, Landi was off the job. When police investigators again demanded that Landi show up for an interview the following Tuesday, Nicco told his client not to go. "My position at that time was, 'If you've done your investigation and you've already suspended him based on your investigation, what do you need to talk with him for on Tuesday?'" Nicco says. "'You wouldn't give me the courtesy of two days to prepare. What information do you now need to change your mind?'"

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