Politics didn't play into decision not to prosecute domestic violence case, DA says

San Francisco resident Philip Horne is accusing District Attorney Kamala Harris of dropping felony domestic violence charges against his former boyfriend, Julius Turman, because of Turman's political connections.

Horne, 40, says that four days after Turman, 42, beat him on Jan. 2, 2006, Harris refused to prosecute the case despite a police report detailing Horne's injuries, which included a bloody nose, loosened tooth, and scratches on his face and head. There is also a 911 recording on which Horne can be heard screaming for help.

Turman, who outweighs Horne by 40 pounds and was unscathed in the incident, claims that he is the real victim and that he was only defending himself.

At the time of the domestic disturbance, Turman was a co-counsel for the group And Castro for All, which promotes diversity in the gay community, and a rising star of the politically powerful Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, which he now co-chairs. Harris has alliances with both groups, and the Toklas club actively campaigned for her re-election last month.

Jim Rowland, the managing attorney of the District Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit, says Harris did not contact him regarding the case and gave him no direction when he was deciding whether to prosecute Turman. "I made the decision not to prosecute solely on the police report and by talking with the inspector," he says.

Rowland declined to speak about the specifics of the Horne case, but he says in general he assesses each case for things like prior reports of domestic violence or assault, severity of injuries, witnesses, and whether the suspect and victim have opposing stories. In the Horne and Turman matter, neither had a history of violence, there were no witnesses, and each disputed the other's story. "San Francisco juries are very tough," Rowland says. "They do what they're supposed to do; they are highly skeptical, and no case is a slam-dunk."

Horne also complicated his own case by asking that it not be prosecuted immediately after he was beaten and then changing his mind 11 days later. The pattern of victim waffling is not unusual, says Ken Theisen, domestic-violence advocate for Bay Area Legal Aid. "The victim not wanting to prosecute is common in the majority of domestic-violence cases," he says. "That's why the San Francisco District Attorney's Office has a 'no-drop' policy. They should go ahead and prosecute regardless of the position of the victim."

Turman insists he received no special treatment from Harris. "We are not friends," he said. "We've seen each other at Alice meetings, but we have never been to one another's home for dinner. We are not friends."

But several months after the beating, Harris co-hosted a fund-raiser for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel and invited Turman onstage. She introduced him as an important leader in San Francisco's gay community and a "friend," according to Horne.

Horne says he decided to go public now because Turman has publicly attacked his character in an attempt to discredit him. "I want people in this liberal city of San Francisco to understand how victims of domestic violence are treated," he says. "Not only was my case ignored by Harris' office, but I was ostracized in my community and my name has been tarnished. I want people to understand that it has been two years of hell."

Horne says he also waited until a civil suit he filed against Turman was settled (more on that in a moment).

Controversial AIDS activist and blogger Michael Petrelis, who is a friend of Horne's, sent out a press release last week containing the 2006 police report, a police photo of Horne's scratched face, and other court documents.

Turman and his friends immediately went into damage-control mode. In fact, during the reporting of this story, SF Weekly received three calls on Turman's behalf accusing Horne of being a gold-digger and a crazed meth addict. One caller said Horne was a friend of Andrew Cunanan, the 27-year-old male prostitute who went on a four-state murder spree in 1997, killing five men including fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Horne, a civil-rights attorney, admits to having struggled with drug addiction, but says he is now clean and sober and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol the night of the beating. He also admits to briefly meeting Cunanan through a friend when Cunanan was supposedly looking for someone to share an apartment in the Marina. Horne was considering the offer when news broke about the killings.

Horne has gotten some legal satisfaction from his fight with Turman. Horne's lawsuit was recently settled for an undisclosed amount before Turman had to give a deposition.

"He didn't want to have to think about what he was going to say on the record," says Horne, who adds that Turman aspires to become a judge.

Turman, meanwhile, says he settled because he wanted to get rid of Horne, who is obsessed with ruining his career. "I purposely settled that case without a confidentiality agreement because I haven't done anything wrong," he says.

 
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