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SAN JOSE — Citing fears that they would never get a conviction, Santa Clara County prosecutors struck a deal Tuesday with two Palo Alto cops accused of illegally beating and pepper-spraying a man. Officers Michael Kan and Craig Lee pleaded no contest to “disturbing the peace by fighting” in a public place and were fined $250 each. They will not serve jail time. Kan, 27, and Lee, 42, had initially been charged with felony assault for beating up Albert Hopkins, 59, in 2003. But a jury deadlocked in the cops’ first trial in April. Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite said Tuesday that he and his bosses feared a new trial would end in a similar result. District Attorney George Kennedy’s office, known for aggressive prosecution of rogue cops, has charged 32 police officers from January 2002 to June 2004. The decision not to retry the Palo Alto officers comes just three weeks after an Alameda County jury acquitted the Oakland cops known as the Riders on several charges. Prosecutors there have decided they won’t try the case a third time. Santa Clara prosecutors said they took the outcome of the Riders trial into consideration in making their decision. But they said they looked at other factors, too, including that the city of Palo Alto has already paid Hopkins $250,000 for his injuries and that there may be less ambiguity about incidents between the police and citizens in the future thanks to video cameras that will be installed in officer vehicles. Prosecutors, who spent weeks reviewing the case and going over jury instructions, determined that “justice was done,” Chief Deputy DA Karyn Sinunu announced Tuesday. “It was not a snap decision. It’s a negotiated settlement. This is a complex thing,” Sinunu said. Waite, who prosecuted the cops during the first trial, also added that he, too, thought the settlement deal was “a fair solution.” The Coalition for Justice and Accountability expressed outrage Tuesday upon learning of the plea bargain. It is planning to send a letter of protest to both the DA and the Board of Supervisors. In a statement, Richard Konda, a member of the group, wrote, “The message of this decision is that there are two types of justice, one for the police and one for the everyday person. . . . Equal justice was not present in the courtroom today.” Joe Hopkins, the victim’s brother, is not pleased with the way things have turned out either. “No one has any shame,” said the Pasadena attorney, who likened the $250 infraction to that of a minor traffic ticket. “I don’t have a problem with Peter [Waite]. I have a problem with his bosses,” Joe Hopkins said, speculating that the DA’s race was a factor in the prosecutors’ decision not to retry the case. Sinunu is running for DA next year and the victim’s brother speculated that retrying these two cops would not look good for her campaign. “She has just indicated by [this] decision that they just don’t give a damn,” Hopkins said. Sinunu said such talk is “silly” and that every decision made by the DA’s office is apolitical. “The Kan-Lee case is not personal to me,” she said. Kan and Lee had confronted Albert Hopkins as he sat in his car on a dark Palo Alto street in July 2003. A woman reported being frightened by Hopkins, and a nearby shop had been recently burglarized. The officers said they were justified in using force because the man was verbally abusive and aggressive. An internal police investigation of the incident cleared the cops of any wrongdoing. But Kennedy’s office disagreed and charged the two men with felony assault under the color of authority, which would have carried a maximum three-year prison sentence. Kan and Lee have been on paid administrative leave for the past two years. Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson said the rookie officers will be back on duty soon. In the meantime, the two have asked for a few vacation days before they start work. The police chief said the officers need time to “decompress.”

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