City wins order securing brothers' cell phones,
By Julia Cheever
January 9, 2008
The city of San Francisco and its zoo won an emergency court
order yesterday temporarily securing the cell phones and a car
belonging to two San Jose brothers who were mauled by a zoo tiger
on Christmas Day.
The order was granted by Superior Court Commissioner Bruce Chan
and will remain in effect until Chan holds a hearing on Friday
on a request by the city and the San Francisco Zoological Society
for authority to search the items.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said
the order was granted "with only moments to spare" before
Kulbir and Amritpal Dhaliwal arrived at the Hall of Justice to
retrieve the items from San Francisco police.
The phones and car have been in police custody since the attack,
but city and zoo officials currently do not have authority to
inspect them without the brothers' permission.
Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, and his brother Amritpal, 19, were injured
and their friend Carlos Sousa, 17, of San Jose, was killed by
the 350-pound Siberian tiger when it escaped from its enclosure
on Dec. 25.
The tiger was fatally shot by police outside the zoo cafe, where
it had followed the two brothers.
Herrera had told the brothers' attorney, Mark Geragos, in
a letter Friday that the "digital content" of the
cell phones "may help reconstruct what happened at the tiger
exhibit and cafe."
He also wrote, "There have also been reports that there
is evidence in your clients' car of possible alcohol consumption."
The city attorney had asked Geragos for a voluntary agreement
allowing inspection of the items. Herrera said lawyers from his
office were negotiating with Geragos as the brothers were apparently
en route to retrieve them.
Herrera charged, "It now appears that Mr. Geragos was just
stalling until his clients could get to the Police Department
to claim their cell phones and car."
Geragos could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a letter to Herrera on Monday, the attorney did not respond
directly to the request for voluntary inspection, but maintained
that the zoo and the city are legally liable for "the fact
that (the zoo) let a deadly animal get out of its cage and attack
Herrera wrote in a petition to Chan yesterday that evidence from
the phones and the car might be needed to defend the city against
an expected civil lawsuit by the brothers and that the material
"is in danger of being destroyed."
The hearing on Friday will be held at the city's Civic Center
Courthouse. In addition to seeking authority to search the phones
and vehicle, the city and zoo will ask for an order requiring
their preservation as potential evidence.
Chan set that hearing in yesterday's emergency order and wrote,
"It is further ordered that the San Francisco Police Department
not release any property described in the petition including cell
phone(s) and vehicle until further notice."
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