Former San Rafael police officer Brandon Nail and his attorney Julia Fox head to Nail’s arraignment on assault charges in Marin Superior Court in San Rafael on Friday. Nail and former officer Daisy Mazariegos were charged with assaulting a man during an arrest last summer in the Canal neighborhood. Nail and Mazariegos entered not guilty pleas before Judge Beth Jordan. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
Two former San Rafael police officers accused of assaulting a detainee and lying about it were arraigned Friday on criminal charges.
Brandon Nail and Daisy Mazariegos, who were involved in the bloody arrest that prompted protests last year, pleaded not guilty in Marin County Superior Court.
The charges include assault by an officer under color of authority and making false statements in a crime report.
“I think the DA is completely out to lunch on this case,” said Chris Shea, the attorney defending Mazariegos. “This is not a case that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Based on my review of the evidence, the former members of the San Rafael Police Department were doing exactly what they were trained to do,” Shea said. “I’m aware of no evidence to the contrary. We’re looking forward to proving former officer Mazariegos is innocent.”
Julia Fox, the attorney defending Nail, agreed.
“The conduct giving rise to these charges was vetted in an internal affairs investigation and could not be proven by the much lower standard of ‘by a preponderance,’” Fox said. “The DA who rightfully carries a tremendous ethical obligation, renders me incredulous given that legal backstory.”
Judge Beth Jordan mandated that the defendants remain in California, remain law abiding citizens and appear in person at every court date. They are scheduled to return to court on Aug. 23.
Nail and Mazariegos, who were joined in court by supporters, declined to comment.
San Rafael has been under fire since the arrest of Julio Jimenez Lopez, 37, came to light. Video of the incident was made public on Sept. 1, 2022, sparking outrage and protests calling for police accountability. Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave one day later.
Many of Lopez’s supporters do not know him personally, but said the incident felt like an attack on the community.
Gabriel Garcia, a native of Guatemala who now resides in San Rafael, was among supporters at court Friday who said they are seeking justice for Lopez.
“What happened to him, his rights being abused, that’s not the country I visualized when I first moved here,” Garcia said.
“They didn’t plead guilty today, but the evidence is there in front of the eyes of our society,” Garcia said. “The video shows everything.”
Lopez supporter Emilio Pineda said he is concerned that the prosecution might have a conflict of interest.
District Attorney Lori Frugoli is a former reserve officer at the San Rafael Police Department. She had a career in law enforcement before becoming an attorney.
“Everybody is entitled to fair treatment from the police and from the court,” Pineda said.
The incident happened on July 27, 2022 on Windward Way in the Canal neighborhood, where Mazariegos approached several men who were drinking beer in the open. Nail arrived a short time later.
Police alleged that Lopez refused commands to stay seated and then put an officer in a headlock during a struggle to detain him. The video and police report show that Lopez was taken to the ground, punched and bloodied, suffering injuries that were treated at a hospital.
The district attorney’s office initially filed a felony case against Lopez, but decided not to pursue it after viewing footage from the arrest.
Former San Rafael police officer Daisy Mazariegos, center, stands with others following her and former officer Brandon Nail’s arraignment on assault charges at Marin Superior Court in San Rafael on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
Mazariegos, who was still in her probationary period at the department, left city employment on May 15. Nail’s employment ended June 28.
City officials would not say whether they were fired or if they quit.
Lopez filed a claim against the city in January, saying he suffered nose fractures, lacerations, contusions and a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery. The claim alleged assault, battery, negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unreasonable search and seizure and excessive force by police.
The city conducted an internal investigation of the incident. It was completed on April 28 and has been shrouded in secrecy, with officials citing employee privacy.
The Independent Journal and Lopez’s attorneys have filed lawsuits seeking to make public the police file containing investigation reports and related records of the incident. The IJ’s case is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday.
The Marin County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Nail and Mazariegos in June.
In the complaint, Frugoli wrote that the former officers “personally inflicted great bodily injury” on Lopez.
Lopez launched a federal civil rights lawsuit against the former officers, the police department and the city, near the one-year mark of the arrest.
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That suit alleges unreasonable detention and arrest, excessive force, assault, battery and negligence. It also alleges the department failed to properly train officers and that they were not disciplined or reprimanded.
The incident has also disrupted dozens of cases involving the former officers. The alleged crimes by Nail and Mazariegos could taint any testimony they might provide about other incidents they handled. At least 10 cases have been thrown out and many more are under review, according to the Marin County Public Defender’s office.