San Francisco, CA – Last Wednesday, Ronald Brown, a 43-year-old husband and father of three, was acquitted of two counts of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. The charges stemmed from accusations that he interfered with his stepson’s arrest.
On October 18, 2006, at 1:30am, Brown was awoken by a knock at his door. When he opened the door, Brown saw his 16-year-old stepson being pulled away by Police Officer Marvin Cabuntala. When he asked the officer why he was arresting his stepson, Officer Cabuntala told him that his son was being detained for questioning. Brown repeated his inquiries and followed the officer and stepson onto the sidewalk. Brown was then approached by several other officers, including Officer Christian Berge and Officer Jesse Farrell, and was knocked to the ground and placed in a chokehold.
During trial, the officers involved admitted knocking Brown to the ground and applying a chokehold, but claimed their actions were justified by Brown’s actions. On direct examination, Officer Berge testified that Brown refused to obey another officer’s orders not to interfere with his stepson’s arrest. At one point, Officer Farrell attempted to arrest Brown, who, according to police, physically resisted.
Brown took the stand in his defense and denied resisting arrest or striking any of the officers. The defense also presented evidence that Officer Farrell had engaged a pattern of using force against civilians during arrest and that he had been involved in at least twelve incidents involving force against civilians between 2004 and 2006.
“It was clear that the police officers involved in this case were not truthful on key points of their testimony,” says Deputy Public Defender Peter Santina. “A parent has a right to know why their child is being arrested and where he is being taken. An incident like this would have never happened to white family living in Pacific Heights or Noe Valley.”
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.