The Butler Did It

Woman sues the city for false arrest after getting busted for allegedly throwing hot coffee on a butler for the Gettys

It all started with a steaming cupful of coffee poured on a man's crotch. And then it got ugly.

You might remember the curious 2005 incident in which a woman dumped a cup of joe onto the groin of the Getty family's butler in a reported case of bourgeois road rage in the Marina district. Nearly a year after being cleared of all coffee-hurling charges, San Franciscan Jill Karen Schaffer last month filed a complaint against the city, requesting unspecified damages for emotional distress and harm to her reputation.

While the original incident, naturally, attracted attention, Schaffer's suit has, so far, flown almost completely under the media's radar. Perhaps that's because, despite its dark-roasted richness, the case is difficult to summarize. Well, here goes:

Following the traffic altercation that led to butler Chris Daniels allegedly calling Schaffer "a miserable fucking cunt" and subsequently nursing first- and second-degree coffee burns, District Attorney Kamala Harris opted not to file charges, despite a personal call from Ann Getty herself. Months later, however, a pair of policemen, Officer John Fewer and Sgt. John Haggett, allegedly leaned on Assistant District Attorney Reve Bautista to file charges against Schaffer, who was subsequently arrested. But here's the kicker: Fewer was, at the time, working his off-hours as a Getty family security guard and his pal, Haggett, was close friends with Bautista. Anyhow, the charges were subsequently dropped and Bautista was disciplined for filing the case.

"I think this incident brings to light officers involved in other jobs and the tendency for them to use their police powers to benefit that employer," said Randy Daar, one of Schaffer's attorneys.

Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office, declined to comment on the suit, but did note that her office had put new systems in place to "make sure this kind of thing won't happen again" — which is good news for anyone else who tosses a hot beverage on a butler.

"This case will be interesting because it involved one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in San Francisco," added Daar. "Hopefully it'll answer the question of whether they were involved in these charges being filed."

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