A former San Francisco police lieutenant incriminated in a racist texting scandal was charged Wednesday with obstructing the rape investigation of a subordinate officer.
The San Francisco district attorney's office charged Curtis Liu with a felony count of lying to investigators and two misdemeanors charges of obstruction.
In August, a woman reported that then-Officer Jason Lai raped her. Liu is accused of discussing the report with Lai before investigators knew the officer was the suspect. He then denied discussing the accusation with Lai, prosecutors allege. He is also accused of letting police file an initial report stating that the rape suspect was "unknown" when he knew that it was Lai.
Liu's attorney Tony Brass said "to charge him with a felony seems excessive." Brass said Liu "self-corrected his mistake" and told investigators what he knew about the rape case soon after denying discussing the probe with Lai.
Brass said he's concerned Liu was charged with felony because of his involvement in the texting scandal. "Usually, these types of things are handled by internal discipline," Brass said.
Prosecutors in March declined to charge Lai with rape, saying there wasn't enough evidence. Lai was charged with misdemeanor counts of illegally accessing driving and criminal records.
Lai's personal cellphone was seized during the rape investigation, and it was discovered that he, Liu and two other officers had exchanged racist and homophobic texts.
Public defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday released a redacted transcript of some of Lai's offensive text messages, which included slurs for blacks, Mexicans and gays and insulted President Obama and NBA star LeBron James. Adachi received the transcripts from the district attorney because his office is representing a defendant Lai helped investigate. The transcripts of three other officers' texts weren't released, but police chief Greg Suhr said their conversation were "no less reprehensible'' than Lai's bigoted comments.
Liu retired from the department last year. Lai and one of the three remaining officers implicated in the texting scandal have resigned. Suhr is seeking the dismissal of the fourth officer.