SAN FRANCISCO — A former San Francisco police lieutenant linked to a racist texting scandal and also charged with obstructing the rape investigation of a subordinate officer was arrested Wednesday, police said.
Hours after the San Francisco district attorney's office charged Curtis Liu with a felony count of lying to investigators and two misdemeanors charges of obstruction, the San Francisco Police Department announced he had been arrested and booked at San Francisco County Jail.
The bigoted messages involving Liu, the second such texting scandal to shake the department since 2014, come as a top Los Angeles Sheriff's Department official apologized Wednesday for forwarding inappropriate and racially insensitive emails when he served as the second-highest ranking officer in the Burbank Police Department.
The latest bigoted San Francisco texts came to light after a woman reported in August that then-Officer Jason Lai raped her. As part of the rape investigation, Lai's cellphone was seized and racist texts to Liu and others were found.
Liu is accused of discussing the report with Lai before investigators knew the officer was the suspect. He then denied discussing the accusation with Lai, prosecutors allege. He is also accused of letting police file an initial report stating that the rape suspect was "unknown" when he knew that it was Lai.
Liu's attorney Tony Brass said "to charge him with a felony seems excessive." Brass said Liu "self-corrected his mistake" and told investigators what he knew about the rape case soon after denying discussing the probe with Lai.
Brass said he's concerned Liu was charged with felony because of his involvement in the texting scandal. "Usually, these types of things are handled by internal discipline," Brass said.
Prosecutors in March declined to charge Lai with rape, saying there wasn't enough evidence. Lai was charged with misdemeanor counts of illegally accessing driving and criminal records.
Public defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday released a redacted transcript of some of Lai's offensive text messages, which included slurs for blacks, Mexicans and gays and insulted President Obama and NBA star LeBron James. Adachi received the transcripts from the district attorney because his office is representing a defendant Lai helped investigate. The transcripts of three other officers' texts weren't released, but police chief Greg Suhr said their conversation were "no less reprehensible" than Lai's bigoted comments.
Liu retired from the department last year. Lai and one of the three remaining officers implicated in the texting scandal have resigned. Suhr is seeking the dismissal of the fourth officer.
Suhr is also trying to fire eight other officers implicated in an earlier texting scandal that came to light during a police corruption probe in 2014.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, newly released emails showed the chief of staff for Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell forwarded emails containing jokes mocking minorities, Muslims and women when he worked for Burbank police, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper reported that Tom Angel sent the emails in 2012 and 2013 when he was second in command at Burbank police. The Times obtained the emails through the state's public records law.
One of the emails jokes about "blacks" and Mexicans filling jail cells. Another ridiculed concerns about racially profiling Muslims, and a third listed "towels for hats" as a reason "Muslim terrorists are so quick to commit suicide." That email also said, "You can't wash off the smell of donkey."
Angel told the Times that he didn't mean to demean anyone and said it was unfortunate his work emails were made public.
"Anybody in the workplace unfortunately forwards emails from time to time that they probably shouldn't have forwarded," Angel said. "I apologize if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes."
McDonnell said he is disappointed in the emails but he has no plans to discipline Angel, saying the messages predate Angel's employment at the sheriff's department.