Sherman R. Frederick
Sausalito Marin Scope
Homeless advocates fired a barrage of unsubstantiated accusations against the City of Sausalito, accusing the town’s police department and city leaders of engaging in a deep conspiracy of corruption designed to do violence against the homeless and thwart homeless-aligned reporters.
It came during a press conference on President’s Day (Feb. 21) on the steps of Sausalito City Hall to announce a federal lawsuit against the city and several officers in the police department.
The group dubbed the press conference “From Selma to Sausalito.” It featured Jeremy Portje, a Marin photojournalist working with homeless advocates, his lawyer Charles Bonner and Robbie Powelson, a homeless advocate involved in the anchor out issue in Richardson Bay and other causes in the Bay Area. Because it was President’s Day, City Hall was closed and went largely unnoticed by the general population.
Bonner started the staged event by accusing the Sausalito powers-that-be of corruption in creating an environment that allowed Portje to be “criminally brutalized.”
While Portje was arrested and spent the night in jail, “in fact,” Bonner said, “it is the cops who are the criminals” when they stopped Portje from shooting an encounter between police and a homeless person at Marinship Park Tent City.
Powelson took it a step further, accusing the entire rich community “on the hill” of Sausalito of a “festering abborance” against “working people.”
In Sausalito, there is an appalling disregard for the law, he said. “(Sausalito Cops and politicians) feel they are above the law,” he said, “but accountability is coming.”
Portje, who works with homeless advocates, was arrested on Nov. 30 in an altercation with Sausalito Police. He was arrested and jailed for resisting arrest and injuring a police officer.
Later, however, Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli declined to prosecute saying that while the arrest may have been justified, she felt she could not in a court of law prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Portje “intended” to injure the officer.
That led to the Portje’s federal filing last week.
In an earlier court filing, the Sausalito Police Department said that Portje’s recitation of the “facts” are “inaccurate.” Body camera footage worn by officers in the Portje encounter was reviewed and the police department determined the footage “does not support” homeless advocate statements about what happened. The body cam footage has not been made public.
Sausalito Police Chief John Rohrbacher has said that Portje pushed a police sergeant twice then thrust a camera into the sergeant’s face, causing a black eye and small cut.
The city issued this statement after the press conference. It read:
“We are aware that Jeremy Portje held a press conference during which disturbing allegations were made against the Sausalito Police Department. There has been a review of credible evidence in this matter and we have found no information to support any indication that this incident was about race as alleged. The City has not yet received the lawsuit. When we receive it we will carefully review and comment as appropriate at that time.”
Among other things, Portje said the Sausalito police officers were racist in shutting him down from shooting in a public park and hurting him in the subsequent arrest. His suit said that officers “paraded” him in a way that was reminiscent of “slave catchers” on the Old South.
Portje spoke at the press conference rally.
He called the Sausalito Police department a “goon squad: who “picked the wrong person to arrest and assault.”
However, Frugoli initially seemed to exonerate the Sausalito police by explaining her inaction this way:
“While we take all allegations of assault on a police officer seriously, in this case a team of veteran prosecutors who reviewed the case found that the evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Portje intended to injure the officer,” Frugoli said. “Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard of proof required by ethical and legal standards for prosecutors to move forward with a case. It is a higher standard than probable cause, which is the standard required by law enforcement to make an arrest.”
Attorney Charles Bonner said he wants the District Attorney to revisit this incident and investigate and prosecute “these cops”. He wants the California Attorney General to do the same.
“These cops need to go to jail,” he said.
Powelson said he finds “that vision is so exciting.”