Two Palo Alto police officers accused of beating a man last year reached a plea agreement with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office this morning.
Officers Michael Kan, 27, and Craig Lee, 42, pleaded no contest to fighting in a public place, classed as an "infraction" -- which one attorney compared to "a parking ticket." They each paid a $250 fine and are eligible to return to duty immediately.
But police Chief Lynne Johnson said today they are expected to take some time off and then go through a "reintegration program" to bring them up to date on policy and training changes that have occurred in the two years they have been off duty, a process that could take several months.
She said she is acutely aware that "we still have some healing to do," both within the department and in the community, particularly among minorities. She said she anticipates angry responses, but that a number of changes have been made in department's services-based training program.
"We've made changes, but we still have a ways to go," she said.
She said the officers will have no restrictions on duties they can perform and "will regain full peace-officer status."
Kan and Lee had been charged with felony assault under the color of authority for beating Albert Hopkins, 59, an African-American, in July 2003.
They were tried under the felony charge but a jury deadlocked in April, voting 8-4 to convict, and a mistrial was declared. Prosecutors had to decide whether to retry them. Instead, the plea bargain on the lesser charge was agreed to.
"Our experience causes us to believe a retrial would also end in hung jury," Santa Clara County District Attorney George Kennedy said in a prepared statement. "The first trial was vigorously prosecuted; the first jury worked diligently."
Kennedy also said that Hopkins had been fully compensated for his injuries in a $250,000 settlement with the city separate from the criminal charges against the officers.