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District Attorney Terence Hallinan released a scathing version of the events that led to the San Francisco police “fajitagate” case, a move which could escalate the rhetoric swirling around the controversial indictments. The DA’s office called the unusual court filing a response to defense attorneys’ motion to dismiss charges against five members of the San Francisco Police Department brass accused of attempting to cover up an early-morning brawl involving three off-duty junior officers. The response includes descriptions of officers driving around the Marina District while drinking bottles of Sierra Nevada, a blow-by-blow account of the melee, a delay in turning over the clothing of the three suspect officers, and the free use of cell phones afforded those officers during the initial investigation, even after the officers were read their Miranda rights. It also reveals the reason Lt. Joe Dutto, who oversaw the internal investigation, was prevented from interviewing officers in person — a key element in the alleged cover-up. City Attorney Dennis Herrera recommended Dutto only interview police witnesses in writing. Assistant District Attorney Jerry Coleman, who prepared the brief, also noted that lead prosecutor Albert Murray told the grand jury investigating the fight, toward the end of the proceedings, to “free yourself from any prejudices or any unfairness and consider this case like you would any other case, and make a decision that is fair and just.” Also included in the filing was a list of exculpatory evidence presented to the grand jury, a response to one of the defense lawyers’ arguments in favor of dismissal. Coleman, whose full reply is not due until Tuesday, said the office filed the factual response because it “wanted there to be a level playing field for all participants in terms of the facts.” The state of the “playing field” has been the subject of much debate since the indictments were handed down earlier this month. Defense lawyer Stuart Hanlon used the metaphor to successfully argue against a gag order in the case, saying Hallinan had tilted the field in the prosecution’s favor with repeated public comments. Tuesday’s filing may ratchet up the public rhetoric over the case. Defense lawyer Arthur Wachtel said the filing — some details of which he said were flat wrong, a contention disputed by Coleman — is “a very serious matter.” He went so far as to suggest that Coleman may be in contempt of court. “This is an argument. It’s not a statement,” Wachtel said of the filing. Coleman said he was surprised by Wachtel’s stance. Defense lawyers were apparently going to issue a press release responding to the filing, but by the early evening had decided to wait until today — or not issue one at all. The grand jury returned indictments against the three officers involved in the brawl — Matthew Tonsing, David Lee and Alex Fagan Jr. Fagan Jr. is the son of acting Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr. It also indicted seven members of the SFPD’s command staff, including Fagan Sr., who saw Hallinan dismiss charges against him and Police Chief Earl Sanders on March 11.

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