No jail time for deputy in San Francisco hospital assault

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2016 6:48 PM

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A San Francisco Sheriff's deputy who was convicted of assaulting a disabled, homeless patient inside a hospital in 2014 avoided jail time when he was sentenced on Wednesday, officials said.

San Francisco Deputy Sheriff Michael Robert Lewelling was instead sentenced by Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office and the deputy's attorney.

"This was an assault on an unarmed patient with a disability," said Max Szabo, a spokesman for the district attorney. "Due to the vulnerable nature of the victim, and the seriousness of the conduct, we felt that the one year county jail sentence we requested was more than appropriate."

The assault occurred against the backdrop of protests around the United States over the use of excessive force by police, particularly against minority groups.

Prosecutors said Lewelling approached Fernando Guanill, who was sleeping on Nov. 3, 2014, in the emergency department of San Francisco General Hospital, where he had a scheduled appointment.

A nurse had asked Lewelling to remove Guanill because he had been verbally disruptive, according to prosecutors.

They said the two men argued and as Guanill used his cane to get up and try to leave the waiting room, Lewelling pulled him back down and assaulted him.

Lewelling later filed a report that prosecutors said did not match surveillance footage from inside the room.

The jury convicted Lewelling on a felony and misdemeanor assault charge. The judge dismissed the lesser assault charge before Wednesday's sentencing, according to Lewelling's attorney, Harry Stern.

"We are very pleased with the judge's determination," Stern said. "The remaining charge will be appealed."

Guanill filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lewelling and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department in October over the assault. That case is still active.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco)