We caught up with Public Defender Jeff Adachi at City Hall this week for a brief chat about his wave-making announcement
on Monday that he's seeking the aid of local and state legislators in recouping $2 million racked up by the city defending eight men in a decades-old murder case. The notorious "San Francisco Eight" prosecution, which began in 2007, has resulted in dropped or reduced charges against seven of the men so far.
Adachi's argument is that since the state attorney general's office brought the charges -- and not the San Francisco district attorney's office -- the state should have to refund the city the roughly $2 million it spent on legal fees for the defendants, none of whom could afford private attorneys. But there's a twist to this story. Adachi doesn't just want the city's dollars refunded -- he's hoping that supervisors see fit to steer the money, if the state coughs it up, directly to his office.
Most of the attorneys and investigators hired to defend the San Francisco Eight were paid for by the city's indigent defense fund. The money in that pot comes from the city's general fund, and not from the public defender's office. So if Adachi prevails in his attempt to get the money back for the city -- and can convince elected officials to reward him for his efforts -- the recouped legal fees could amount to a $2 million windfall for the public defender's office, which is struggling with staffing and budget issues.
"We're asking that the money be refunded to the city and county," Adachi told SF Weekly. "Obviously, I'm hoping that the funds will be used to help my office defend the 28,000 other people we have to defend this year. ... certainly, $2 million would go a long way."
The eight men who were charged in the case are alleged former militants in the Black Liberation Army. Their charges stemmed from the shotgun killing of San Francisco Police Sergeant John Young during an attack on Ingleside Police Station in 1971. Only one of the defendants, Francisco Torres, still has pending charges.
Photo | Richard Bui