Tuesday, February 1, 2011
C.A. Says San Francisco Officials Not Responsible for Gang Killings
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the dismissal of a suit charging that San Francisco officials are responsible for the deaths of three members of a local family who were shot to death by a gang member.
Div. Three, in an opinion by Justice Peter Siggins, held that former Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Police Chief Heather Fong, and Chief Juvenile Probation Officer William Sifferman cannot be held liable for the deaths of Anthony, Matthew, and Michael Bologna.
Anthony Bologna’s widow sued the three, claiming that by enforcing the city’s “sanctuary policies” for illegal aliens, they facilitated the shooting of her husband and sons by a member of the violent Central American gang known as MS-13. They were shot to death in 2008 as they sat in the family car.
Edwin Ramos, identified as the shooter by another son who was in the car at the time, is facing trial for first degree murder. He claims that another man fired the fatal shots from Ramos’ car.
Attorneys for Danielle Bologna and her surviving children contended that the usual rule that public officials are immune from liability for failure to prevent crimes was subject to an exception because the defendants breached mandatory duties under state and federal laws to cooperate with immigration authorities.
Ramos, they said, should have been turned over to federal officials after he was committed to a facility for violent juveniles, but was allowed to go free because city policy precluded law enforcement officers from turning juvenile suspects over to immigration authorities.
Shortly after the shootings, Newsom—now the lieutenant governor of California—altered the policy to permit cooperation in the case of juvenile felons.
Siggins, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed with San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woodlard, who ruled last year that immunity applied because the statutes cited by the plaintiffs were enacted to combat drug trafficking, not to protect the public from violent crimes.
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