Adachi’s legacy won’t be tarnished by police leak, chief attorney Gonzalez says

Chief Attorney for the Public Defender’s Office Matt Gonzalez on Feb. 26 called the leak of a police report into the investigation of Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s death “troubling.” Adachi, 59, passed away suddenly Feb. 22 after having dinner with a friend in North Beach. After being taken to an apartment near Coit Tower, he was then rushed to the hospital, where he died just before 7 p.m.

Although police have ruled out foul play, news reports citing a police report, complete with pictures of the apartment where medics responded to, detail the investigation into his death.

“I understand the police are trying to suggest this was a crime scene and it wasn’t. It was a place where someone had a medical emergency,” Gonzalez said. “The leaks are troubling in and of themselves, but even worse when many of the leaks are patently false,” he said, referring to the suggestions that a crime had been committed.

“In Jeff’s case, he battled with police officers, some who he was able to maintain friendly relationships with, but we know that there were some who never passed up an opportunity to speak badly about him … You can’t help but link the two,” he said. “I don’t want to make false accusations, but this is what it appears when I’m looking at. They’re (police) spending three hours at an apartment that is not a crimes scene. They come back the next day and take pictures.

“I can appreciate that there’s interest, but curiosity should not be the driving force to grant police access to a private residence on multiple occasions and open investigations that having nothing to do with an alleged crime,” he said. “My understanding of Jeff Adachi and his contributions to the pursuit of justice cannot be tarnished by whatever salacious details they want to release. It’s not going to change any of that, that’s the irony of all the effort to go down this path, it’s not affecting who he was and what he stood for.”

According to Gonzalez, Adachi had medical issues related to his heart and had sought medical help in the months before his unexpected death.

During Feb. 26’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Aaron Peskin said of Adachi, “Jeff was the epitome of cool … He had incredible guts and he took on issues that none of us, myself absolutely included, wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. And he wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with power. He was the real deal in that respect,” he said. “He was not afraid of exposing what needed to be exposed,” Peskin said.

Referencing the leaked police report, Peskin said, “I must say that I am deeply troubled by the unprecedented leaking of a police report that members of this board and members of the press, under any other circumstances, would not have received. But I will leave that for another day.”

On Feb. 25, District Attorney Gascon said of Adachi, “Jeff was fierce in his pursuit for justice, as he felt appropriate. He believed in his work. We sometimes disagreed on the path to his work, but the one thing that I admire about his was his commitment to the people who were his clients and his commitments to criminal justice reform.”

Regarding the leaked report, Gascon said, “I’m worried that we’re going into a direction that we shouldn’t. I don’t think any of us are perfect and I think there are personal things that should remain personal, so I’m not going to speculate. We’re getting into areas that I think are totally inappropriate for us to do,” he said.

Adachi, who started as deputy public defender in 1987 in San Francisco, was first elected public defender in 2002 and won re-election four times after that. He’s survived by his wife and their daughter.

A candlelight vigil was held by his office on Feb. 27. An altar has been set up in the lobby at the Public Defender’s Office, located at 555 Seventh St.

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