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The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed on Monday that it is overseeing a civil rights investigation into former San Francisco police officer Alex Fagan Jr. and other members of the police department. At the same time, an office spokesman said U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan has recused himself from any involvement in the case, though he did not say why. Ryan is close with at least one member of the San Francisco Police Department’s command structure indicted by District Attorney Terence Hallinan in the fajitagate scandal. “The FBI is conducting a preliminary examination into allegations of possible civil rights violations by Alex Fagan Jr. and other members of the San Francisco Police Department. This preliminary examination may or may not lead to further investigation or proceedings,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs said. Jacobs declined to say how many other members of the SFPD might be targeted by the probe. Fagan is one of three officers being prosecuted by Hallinan on assault charges stemming from an off-duty fight in the Marina District over a bag of fajitas. He is the son of Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr. Fagan Sr. attended a party for Ryan when Ryan became U.S. attorney, according to a source that said it’s common knowledge within the office. Another source said Ryan is close to Deputy Chief Gregory Suhr, who saw conspiracy charges filed against him in connection with the fajitagate scandal thrown out. Suhr oversees the field operations of the SFPD. Ryan couldn’t be reached at his office Monday and his spokesman would not say why Ryan had recused himself. “I can’t comment on the reason,” Jacobs said. Suhr is out this week and could not be reached. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the FBI issued a grand jury subpoena for Fagan Jr.’s personnel records. There appears to be some confusion about how far along the investigation is. The Chronicle reported that a grand jury is investigating Fagan Jr. The FBI has the power to issue grand jury subpoenas on behalf of the grand jury, without any testimony taking place and even without the knowledge of a sitting grand jury. In typical federal civil rights investigations, the results of a preliminary investigation are sent to Main Justice and the local U.S. attorney’s office for a determination on whether to proceed to a full-blown investigation. The FBI has stated for months that it has already sent its results to Main Justice. An FBI spokeswoman said Monday that any direction in the case is coming out of Main Justice, but implied that a full-blown investigation has not been ordered. “It’s in their hands now,” spokeswoman Patty Hansen said, referring to Main Justice. Prosecutors can ask the FBI to glean more information before making a decision. Any federal civil rights case would have to focus on actions taken by the officers under color of authority — an off-duty street fight isn’t necessarily enough. A local prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Harris, has been assigned to the case. James Collins, an attorney representing Fagan Jr. in the assault case, was not in his office Monday and could not be reached. Though the FBI has subpoenaed Fagan Jr.’s personnel records, it has not spoken to most attorneys representing plaintiffs in a number of civil rights cases filed against Fagan Jr., and none recently. Fagan Jr. is reported to have used force 16 times during little more than a year on the force. Mark MacNamara, spokesman for Hallinan, said last week he wasn’t aware of any FBI requests for information from Hallinan’s office, either. Ryan also presided over criminal cases as a San Francisco Superior Court judge for many years, which could also explain his recusal. “I think it reflects that he’s carefully doing what he’s supposed to do,” said Michael Shepard, who once headed the Justice Department’s public integrity section and now chairs the white-collar defense practice group at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. “It seems pretty routine to me. Somebody recognized that this might be an issue for him and he took himself out of it,” said Shepard, who noted that Ryan has recused himself from other cases as well.

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