FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 6, 2022
CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Officer | Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org | (628)249-7946
SF Jury Acquits Former Firefighter of Felony After Psychologist Escalated a Confrontation Over Paperwork
Former firefighter spent two years trying to fight this case, including 410 days in jail
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, a San Francisco jury acquitted former San Francisco firefighter Stephen Kloster of felony charges stemming from an altercation with his doctor. The doctor admitted getting into a fighting posture during a verbal confrontation with Mr. Kloster who had come to his office to inquire about important medical records he’d first requested from the doctor six years prior. Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof argued that Mr. Kloster acted in reasonable self-defense when he hit the doctor who had admittedly put up his fists and reportedly charged at Mr. Kloster. After spending the past 410 days in jail during the pandemic, Mr. Kloster will finally be released and able to resume caregiver duties for his elderly mother.
“Psychologists are trained to de-escalate, not to escalate and instigate combat,” said Mr. Maloof. “It’s obscene that Mr. Kloster was not only charged with serious felonies, but that his life and wellbeing has been completely upended by the criminal courts for nearly two years, while it only took a jury a day and a half to reach a reasonable decision.”
Mr. Kloster was charged with two felonies: assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and elder abuse because the doctor is over 65 years old. During the trial, the doctor testified that he knew that Mr. Kloster suffers from mental illness. The doctor also testified that the marks on his face in photos taken after the incident were likely razor bumps and not a result of being hit or strangled, as the prosecutor had falsely suggested to the jury, and that there was no reason to believe that Mr. Kloster was aware of his age.
The felony assault charge against Mr. Kloster has now been dismissed, after the jury hung 6-6. He was found not guilty of all other charges, except for misdemeanor battery.
Mr. Kloster spent 410 days in jail, including 274 days past his trial deadline. He is being released on time served, as he has already served nearly a year longer than his misdemeanor conviction would have required.
Mr. Kloster has been fighting the city of San Francisco for several years after he faced harassment and discrimination due to a work-related medical condition. He and his attorney in the civil employment lawsuit had tried for several years to gather medical records from the doctor in question as a means to show how Mr. Kloster has suffered psychologically from being severely ostracized and forced out of his career as a firefighter. These were the records Mr. Kloster was attempting to retrieve when he went to the doctor’s office on the date of the incident in November 2019, where again he was stymied by the doctor, which led to an argument.
“This egregious delay of justice for Mr. Kloster is shameful. No one should have to wait this long for a court system that continues to violate the rights and liberties of the accused,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, who sued San Francisco Superior Court in September to open more courtrooms and prioritize the tremendous backlog of criminal trials that has built up during the pandemic. “Public Defender Mr. Maloof did his job quite well, and the jurors did theirs, but until we get more courtrooms for trials, more and more people like Mr. Kloster will continue to suffer from the courts not doing theirs.”
The number of people whose trial deadlines have passed continues to grow exponentially. As of December 2021, there were over 200 people, nearly 25% of the jail population in San Francisco County, who stand accused of felony charges and whose trial deadlines have passed. Nearly 300 more people accused of felony or misdemeanor charges are out of custody and have also seen their trial deadlines pass. Meanwhile, many courtrooms sit empty.
The defense team included Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, Investigator Terry Collins, and Paralegal Marcy Diamond.