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Cohen attorneys blame Newsom and Fong
for Videogate national spotlight

Email identifies Cohen's attorney as leak

Daniel Horowitz, at a 2pm press conference yesterday, City Hall.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy and Luke Thomas

December 15, 2005

Attorneys for videogate producer Andrew Cohen yesterday continued to scorn Police Chief Heather Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom for releasing Andrew Cohen's video to the national media for political reasons. The Sentinel has learned Cohen's attorney Daniel Horowitz, actually provided the tape footage to the Good Morning America show on December 7, himself.

Horowitz, legal counsel to Cohen, joined attorneys Harry Stern and Michael Rains on San Francisco City Hall steps yesterday accusing Newsom of revealing the video to distract attention from rising homicides rates.

Cohen attorneys Michael Rains (center) and Harry Stern (left)
are members of the Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson law firm.

Public release of a private tape has been at the core of Horowitz criticism of city response.

Horowitz described public release of the video as a shocking violation of privacy.

"We were shocked when the mayor of San Francisco and the chief of police, in essence, they called in Cohen and tried to bring in every ethnic and racial community to say, 'he offended you,' when the offense that they perceived was in these videos that Andrew never released, that Andrew was pulling back with my help and I was astounded to then see the mayor and the chief play these videos for national television," related Horowitz.

Horowitz told the Sentinel last night he doesn't know how Good Morning America acquired the tape.

"…you personally were the first to release video tapes of this to the national media, that you sent it to, I believe, Good Morning America," the Sentinel posed last night to Horowitz.

"Yeah, I'm going to just tell you the truth and then you can do whatever you have to do to verify it," Horowitz responded

"Do you know how Good Morning America got copies of the clips?" asked the Sentinel.

"No….I don't know how Good Morning America got the clips. I also don't know which clips they had or showed.

In contradiction, an email reviewed by the Sentinel described Los Angeles feed to television networks as initiated by the Cohen camp.

Horowitz sent the tape by Federal Express to Los Angles on December 7, which was received at 11:30 p.m. and fed by satellite to New York, according to the email.

Cohen attrorney Michael Rains denied his firm sent the video to Good Morning America.

"Did you give the tapes to Good Morning America?" the Sentinel asked during the press conference.

"No. We've given the tapes to no one," Rains said.

On December 7, Horowitz appeared on KRON-TV raising the issue.

"Maybe it (the video) is dumb, and if it is dumb, who released this nationally? The mayor and Heather Fong, the so-called Police Chief, Horowitz told KRON's Phil Matier.

"Andrew Cohen simply released it on a website. The address was known only to police officers. So if this is sophomoric, the one who is the most sophomoric of all, is the one who released it nationally, Heather Fong and Gavin Newsom.

"It was not going to be released. Actually we were pulling back the DVDs that were out there. No police officer was releasing this in any way."

The following morning Horowitz appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on which the video was aired.

At the 2pm press conference, Cohen attorneys claimed the video is the cause of city movement toward revamping police response to violence, and that Newsom has not held press conferences regarding street violence.

"What I'm deathly afraid of, not only as Andrew Cohen's lawyer, but also as a resident of the City and County of San Francisco, that the mayor is using this case, is scapegoating Andrew Cohen and the other officers to distract everybody from the real problems in Bayview Hunters Point," Rains said.

"You don't see Mayor Newsom showing up and concerning himself with press conferences about the 92 homicides that have taken place in Bayview Hunters Point and in this area. It's unprecedented. Yet, coincidentally enough, when that bad press is starting to come out all of a sudden we see this issue raised about Andrew Cohen. He (Newsom) flaunts the issue. He makes this a problem. He creates the controversy."

"How do you know the mayor doesn't go to press conferences about the violence?" the Sentinel asked.

"I don't. I don't go to listen to him," responded Raines.

Horowitz said community meetings on violence resulted from the Cohen video.

"What is the result of Andrew Cohen's art? We learned today from the mayor that for the first time there has been a community meeting with the citizens of Hunters Point Bayview and there are nine more meetings scheduled", Horowitz stated.

"This is all about people just joking around, and it got out of hand because the mayor released this story nationally.

"I will never release those tapes. They were never meant to be publicly released."

"There was always a danger that…it would fall into hands that it shouldn't fall into. That someone would make an issue out of it that shouldn't be made an issue of," Rains told reporters.

"In this case it was the mayor and the chief. The danger was there. Andrew should have seen it. He didn't see it. That was a mistake," Rains added.

"What this is, is these officers making fun of themselves. That is what it's about," Rains explained.

"So you see this was a video that was intended to be private.

"These are officers. This is police humor. And you know what, the mayor might find it sick. The mayor might find it tasteless. Well the mayor has told you he wants to change the entire culture of this department…but is this a case where the entire police culture in San Francisco should be remade in the name of the mayor? Do we all want to be like Gavin Newsom? I think not. I certainly don't want to be like him, and I don't think the police culture likes to be like the mayor," quipped Rains.

For their part, Fong and Newsom held a press conference Wednesday defending their response to the video production.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief Heather Fong

"It's the last thing this department needs, but it's not the decisions that were made here at City Hall - it was the decisions that were made in the district stations by members of that department that have put the whole department on the line…," Newsom said.

"I think there is something fundamentally wrong when…we decide it is in the best interests of the station to celebrate the holidays by putting people on film that I think objectively portray the department in a negative light."

"I think the problem is extended to those... the only mistake that was made... was putting these things on a website.

"I'm one of the few people who had a chance to review all of the videos and I just want you to know that there are some other videos that are extraordinarily offensive - not just offensive but extraordinarily offensive.

"If people think this is fun and games to run over an alleged homeless person, to make fun of different races and communities, to make fun of the police chief of the City and County of San Francisco, to enact skits where people aren't doing their job…I don't think that's cute or funny.

"What I find remarkable here is that these are sworn police officers. These are people we are supposed to look up to…These are people in uniform and…working on the city dime.

"If this occurred in any business in the private sector, none of us…none of us would criticize the company for taking aggressive and swift action, but for some reason some people have lowered the bar here in San Francisco as if, well, it's a stressful job and somehow certain conduct is okay under those circumstances.

"I don't care what criticism I take. There is zero tolerance for this kind of insensitivity.

"When all this is said and done - and you may not see the tapes for a year or two - you're going to look back and say, 'boy, they were rathered measured in this response.' "




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