Officer linked to text message scandal pleads guilty to felony

A former San Francisco police lieutenant named in a scandal involving racist text messages last year has pleaded guilty to filing a false police report as part of a plea agreement, court officials said Sept. 14.

Curtis Liu, 55, pleaded to the felony charge on Sept. 6 as part of a deal reached with prosecutors. Liu was arrested in April 2016 after he allegedly interfered with a police investigation into sexual assault allegations against his fellow officer Jason Lai.

Liu was accused of tipping Lai off about the investigation and then lying to subordinates and his superior officers to cover up his actions.

It was during a subsequent investigation that police uncovered text messages exchanged among officers connected to Lai, including Liu, that contained racist and sexist language and derogatory references to blacks, Latinos, Indians, Muslims, protesters, rape victims, and gay and transgender people.

The text messages, the second set of such messages uncovered in recent years during criminal investigations of police officers, led to allegations of racism within the department during a period when tensions with the community were already high. The scandal contributed to the pressure on former police Chief Greg Suhr, who was also under fire because of multiple police shootings. Suhr resigned in May 2016 after he became the subject of repeated protests and calls for his resignation.

An investigation against Lai initiated in August of 2015 found insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual assault in connection with allegations that he had raped a woman he was drinking with while off-duty.

However, he was arrested in March on six misdemeanor charges of misusing criminal and state Department of Motor Vehicle databases based on information uncovered during the investigation.
Lai’s case is still in progress, and his next court date is scheduled for Sept. 27. Liu is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 2.

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