by #FreeKevinEpps contributors
San Francisco – Award-winning filmmaker and community activist Kevin Epps of Bayview Hunters Point had his second hearing for a renewed bail motion on Aug. 14. Judge Christine Van Aken ruled in favor of his release on bail in the amount of $250,000.
Epps’ bail has since been posted and he was released from custody on Aug. 15.
Epps had been held in custody by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department without bail since his unexpected arrest on May 7, over two and a half years since he claimed self-defense in the fatal shooting of Marcus Polk in October 2016. Epps was taken into custody and released in 2016 because of insufficient evidence to bring any charges against him.
When Epps’ case was called by Van Aken on Aug. 14, it was standing room only in Department 11 at 850 Bryant St. Assistant District Attorney John Rowland theatrically arrived in court with a two tier rolling cart containing stacks of disheveled notebooks. Several of his colleagues, including Courtney Burris, the daughter of famed Civil Rights lawyer John Burris, lined the walls behind the prosecution.
Seated in the gallery were Epps’ family, friends and supporters, including Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, president of the NAACP San Francisco branch, individuals from Urban Alchemy, SF Clean and #FreeKevinEpps team members Sarah Allen, AJBurleson and Tobee Chung Vanderwall.
As a part of the bail motion, a MoveOn.org petition that now has more than 700 signatures was submitted to the court along with over two dozen letters of support from Epps’ professional colleagues, community leaders, activists, family and friends to include his son’s school teacher, the mother of his youngest children and San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney.
‘Why are we here?’
Rowland unsuccessfully argued that Kevin was a danger to the community by bringing up alleged incidents of domestic disturbances from his past when the San Francisco Police Department had been called and generated a report. Epps was never arrested or charged in either of these two matters.
These two reports that the D.A. dug up occurred in 2017, which led the defense to argue that if Epps was to now be deemed a danger to the community due to these events, why did the D.A.’s office wait until May 2019 to bring him into custody?
To this point, Van Aken specifically asked Rowland, “Why are we here?” To which she further added, “Why was Mr. Epps not brought to the court in 2017 or 2018?” Rowland’s answer was effectively, “I don’t know,” as he replied, “I first came on to this case in May of 2019.”
Back in May 2019, Rowland claimed that the D.A.’s office had “strong new evidence” against Epps that formed the basis for his arrest, yet no such evidence has been presented to the court since Epps’ hearings began.
After his inability to justify why the case was re-opened in May, Van Aken questioned Rowland’s arguments to support denial of bail in light of the mother of Epps’ children having communicated to the court that although she and Epps have had their differences in the past, she emphasized that he has always been a very good father to their children and she wanted him to be released.
Vermuelen’s rebuttal to the prosecution was that Epps should be released as he did not present himself to be a flight risk, he was willing to accept any and all conditions for bail and that he deserved to defend himself out of jail in order to be on a more level playing field to fight his case against the prosecution. Vermeulen also argued that the prosecution had no substantial evidence to support their claim that Epps’ release would result in great bodily harm to others.
After Rowland and Vermeulen submitted their arguments to the court, Van Aken announced that she was ready to make her ruling. She stated that especially in light of the fact that this case is three years old, her best guide to granting bail of $500,000 was that Epps’ release would not result in great bodily harm to others.
Vermuelen immediately asked the court to lower the amount of bail to $100,000 or $200,000 to make it more attainable to post by Epps, his family and community. After a short pause, Van Aken set Epps’ bail at $250,000.
The full capacity courtroom immediately began to clear despite court still being in session. The halls of 850 Bryant were filled with hugs, tears of joy, relief and congratulations to Epps’ family and legal team. Assistant District Attorney Courtney Burris exited before Van Aken made her ruling as she must have seen the handwriting on the wall due to the weak case made by the prosecution against Epps.
Rowland eventually emerged from the courtroom, pushing his cart through the celebratory crowd to the lobby of the Hall of Justice.
While the fight is not over, Epps is grateful to be home and able to focus his energies on his case in a more free environment with the continued support of those who steadfastly remain in his corner.
Kevin would like to thank everyone who wrote a letter of support, signed the petition for his release, donated to his crowd-fundng campaign, shared efforts on social media, showed up in court and supported him in any way to stay strong.
At the time of this report, Epps is at home with his family and spent the weekend with his children, family and friends.
The date for Epps’ preliminary hearing will be set in the coming weeks.
We also want to especially thank Mary Ratcliff of the San Francisco Bay View for the on-going coverage of Epps’ case from day one.
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