Probation search leads to lawsuit

Probation search leads to lawsuit
December 27, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff
Without being on probation, a South San Francisco man claims police detained him in his home while performing a probation search that led to an arrest and five-day stint in jail last year, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

Sean Joseph Penna is suing South San Francisco, San Mateo County, San Mateo Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo Gang Task Force, Sheriff Greg Munks, San Mateo Adult Probation Department, Chief Stuart Forrest, Officer Jason Pfarr, Officer Joshua Cabillo and South San Francisco Police Chief Mike Massoni in relation to a probation search of his South San Francisco home November 2011 that resulted in his arrest. The problem, according to Penna, is he was not on probation. He’s alleging violations of his civil rights, constitutional and statutory rights, negligence, false arrest/imprisonment, battery, conversion, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, trespassing, invasion of privacy and defamation, according to the 19-page lawsuit filed Monday.

County Counsel John Beiers said the county had yet to be served and has not been able to review the allegations. A request for comment from the South San Francisco city attorney was not returned.

On Nov. 17, 2011, officers Pfarr and Cabillo went to Penna’s house on Park Way in South San Francisco to perform a probation search, according to the lawsuit. Penna, who was not on probation, told officers he was not subject to such a search. Officers demanded entry into the home which Penna allowed. Penna was detained in his home while officers searched the home — including a safe within the bedroom from which officers took $1,000, a diamond ring, a diamond pendent, certificates of title for two vehicles, spare keys and several passports, according to the lawsuit. Penna gave officers the combination to the safe under duress, according to the lawsuit. That property is not included in a police report and is alleged to have been stolen by the officers, according to the lawsuit.

Penna’s home has security cameras which feed video to his bedroom. Film of the time officers were in the home was erased, according to the lawsuit. Officers returned to Penna’s home several minutes after leaving and arrested him for a bullet found in the safe, according to the lawsuit. The bullet was pulled from the shirt pocket of an officer to show Penna.

Penna spent five days in jail before the case was dropped, according to the lawsuit.

Penna is suing for unlimited damages and the cost of legal fees.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.


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