San Francisco prosecutors have dropped murder charges against two men accused of killing Jack Palladino, a private investigator who once worked to discredit women claiming extramarital affairs with former President Bill Clinton .
The 76-year-old gumshoe cracked his head on the pavement outside his Haight-Ashbury home – allegedly after muggers yanked a new camera from around his neck on Jan. 28, 2021. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and died in the hospital four days later.
“He went out the way he would have liked, in a dramatic confrontation with the forces of evil,” his wife, Sandra Sutherland, told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.
Lawrence Thomas and Tyjone Flournoy were arrested within days, but defense attorneys challenged witness testimony and physical evidence at a preliminary hearing back in April 2021. On Thursday, a lawyer for one of the men announced the dismissal of all charges against them.
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“The prosecution did the ethical thing in dismissing these charges, as none of the physical evidence corroborated the early assumptions reported by an unreliable witness,” San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, who is representing Thomas, said in a statement.
Prosecutors had initially alleged that Flournoy, sitting in the passenger seat of Thomas’ vehicle, tried to swipe Palladino’s expensive new camera through the window, causing him to fall and hit his head as the duo drove off.
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The men denied this, and Thomas has maintained that he drove away to get out of a verbal altercation with Palladino, who witnesses heard hit the car with his hand.
“After the men drove off, Palladino lost his footing and fell,” according to the defense team.
Police did not find the suspects’ DNA on Palladino’s camera, which was still in his possession when paramedics arrived, according to the public defender’s office. And an eyewitness, under cross-examination, admitted he didn’t see an altercation and had just assumed there was a robbery attempt.
Despite concerns raised in the probable cause hearing, the judge allowed the case to move forward – however, a pandemic backlog delayed the start of the trial for more than 18 months, raising additional constitutional concerns as Thomas and Flournoy remained behind bars for two years.
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Palladino and Sutherland became a private-eye team after they met in the mid-1970s while investigating alleged prisoner abuses within a New York prison at the request of a Long Island district attorney.
Clinton hired Palladino in the early 1990s to discredit women who claimed he’d carried on extramarital affairs with them.
Palladino’s other celebrity clients have included Harvey Weinstein, Don Johnson, Robin Williams, Huey Newton and Snoop Dogg.
He had previously been hired by the Hearst family to assist after their daughter Patty was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and interviewed survivors of the Peoples Temple religious cult’s 1978 mass suicide. He also helped protect the credibility of a Big Tobacco whistleblower in the 1990s when the industry tried to smear him.
Weinstein hired Palladino during his sexual misconduct investigation to keep track of his accusers and journalists investigating his abuses.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News