Officer Found Guilty of Assault On Elderly Man Asleep in Hospital
This Tuesday, San Francisco sheriff’s deputy Michael Lewelling was found guilty of both felony assault under the color of authority, and misdemeanor assault for an attack he made on a 59-year-old homeless man, Fernando Guanill, at San Francisco General Hospital.
In the early morning hours of November 3, 2014 Guanill fell asleep in the waiting room of SF General Hospital, while waiting to be seen by his doctor for a knee replacement surgery. That’s when SF sheriff’s deputy Michael Lewelling approached Guanill waking him up and demanding he leave the hospital. Guanill, trying to oblige the officer, attempted to get up and walk away, but before he could take a step Lewelling knocked away Guanills cane, threw him back into a chair and started to beat and choke him.
In the aftermath, Officer Lewelling falsely claimed in his police report that it was Fernando who had attacked him with his cane and arrested him for felony assault on an officer, resulting in the jailing of Guanill. Once Guanill appeared in court hardly able to walk without the assistance of a cane and having shared his account of what took place at SF General Hospital with a public defender and the prosecutors with the district attorneys office they declined to file charges against Guanill until video of the incident was available. When the videos finally did appear, Lewelling found himself under investigation and brought up on charges [BAI Coverage from: November 2014].
Assistant District Attorney Nancy Tung, argued in court that Officer Lewelling was clearly the aggressor, calling him “bully”. Tung said that Guanill had tried to follow Lewelling’s order but, “Mr. Guanill gets one step before he’s thrown back down in that chair — one step is all you get at San Francisco General Hospital” before being met with Lewelling’s unreasonable force.
Though hospital video of officer Lewelling clearly shows him being the aggressor, Lewelling and his attorney Harry Stern continued the common practice of “under the color of law” testimony, depending on the “badge” of truth to qualify their attempt to smear Fernando Guanill’s reputation and destroy his credibility in court. Luckily the jury saw past the badge, as the pictures proved to more reliable than a cop’s lying words.
In this instance some semblance of “justice’ seems to have been served, but it must be taken into account that in the initial filing, Lewelling was also charged with perjury, filing a false police report, filing a false official document and felony assault, but ended up acquitted of those charges.
Video: KPIX San Francisco/ CBS 5 [December 2014]