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San Mateo County Sheriff sued over alleged error that lead to arrest and jail for Pacifica M

Original post made by Lurker on Aug 25, 2011

Web Link#


A mentally disabled Pacifica man spent 40 days behind bars after police mistakenly tied him to a bogus threat to bomb a Caltrain and then failed to turn over evidence of the man's innocence to his attorney, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy investigating the Aug. 16, 2009 incident incorrectly wrote down one digit of the phone number from which the threat to blow up a train had come, the suit says. That erroneous number lead police to 27-year-old Antonio Santiago who, despite his innocence, eventually caved to pressure from police questioners and admitted making the call, the suit says.

Just days after his Aug. 17 arrest, police ran forensic tests on Santiago's cell phone and saw that no calls had been made from it to Caltrain, the suit says. Yet that information was not turned over to Santiago's attorney at the time, Patrick Concannon. Santiago pleaded no contest to a felony count of making a false bomb threat on Aug. 27, 2009.
The suit, which was filed last week in San Jose federal court, names San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks as well as the officer who allegedly miswrote the phone number, Deputy Michael McVay. The San Mateo County Transit District, Sheriff's Detective Victor Lopez and Sheriff's Lt. Gregory Eatmon are also defendants.


Incidentally the prosecutor on this case was Melissa Mckowan. Mckowan is being investigated by a government agency for misconduct on two cases as well as being sued for lying to a judge to get out of trying a case.

Comments (9)

Posted by Joe, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Hard to understand the controversy here. The officer clearly had probable cause to arrest, and the man confessed. There is nothing he can sue over.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Did you read the entire article?

Deputy McVay hid key exculpatory evidence. Because of this, an innocent, mentally disabled man suffered for 40 days in jail.

Was McVay disciplined for this at all?

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm

This case will go no where. Sorry to say, but there will be "reasonable" excuses and it will go away.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

The exculpatory evidence was that the threatening call wasn't made from Santiago's cell phone.

While this is a serious incident and I am glad there will be an investigation, I can see how someone could ignore that inconsistency when Santiago confessed.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

But Santiago DIDN"T confess right away. He said he was innocent . Keep in mind that he is mentally disabled and he's not from this country. To have TEN officers from various agencies descending on his Pacifica home must have been frightening beyond belief .

According to the paper," the interrogation that followed was intense and threatening. "

We've all heard of cases where innocent people are strong-armed into a confession by overly aggressive law enforcement, but I didn't think it would happen here.

What people who are posting here are ignoring is that Officer McVay subsequently HID the evidence that showed Santiago wasn't guilty.

How would you like it if you were in jail for a crime you didn't commit and the officer who arrested you discovered that he'd made a huge error, but hid the evidence that showed you were innocent, which resulted in a conviction?

If that isn't grounds for a lawsuit, I don't know what is.

Credit must go to Santiago's second lawyer Jeff Haydn who through his investigation found that the police had hid the evidence.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

Here's the original story from a year ago when they dropped the case:

Web Link

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

I support the idea of a Citizen Oversight Committee for the county.

When did the DA's office find out about the wrong phone number, and voice?

I am aware of a San Mateo County Sheriff Detective and his partner confessing for a suspect while he was in ICU at Stanford Hospital on 7 medications.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 11:27 am

Where were the advocates - friends, family or mental health professionals that this man clearly needed? This is a nightmare made real. Even w/a confession, checking phone records immediately seemed to be in order, but that didn't happen. Unless there are a lot of facts missing from the web links posted, this man does deserve redress.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Hmmm asks,

"Where were the advocates - friends, family or mental health professionals that this man clearly needed?"

They might have been there, we will find out as the case moves forward. It will be interesting to see what actions Deputy Michael McVay, took and when after he learned of the alleged mistake. He might have reported it right away and was told/ordered to stand down.

I support a ZERO tolerance for Prosecutorial Misconduct in San Mateo County.

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