OAKLAND – The defense attorney for a woman charged with attempted murder of a peace officer for allegedly stabbing an off-duty Oakland cop in the neck after he confronted her as she slashed tires in a parking lot is asking for the officer’s personnel records, arguing he has a history of dishonesty.
But the legal debate may not focus on alleged prior acts of dishonesty by the officer, but rather whether he was acting as a private citizen or as a policeman during the incident. At a court hearing earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Don C. Clay said he’s inclined to take the former interpretation, though he won’t make a final ruling until at least early 2021.
“I don’t see this as an officer being stabbed in the course of this duty… this guy was a citizen,” Clay said at the Dec. 7 hearing. “He was off-duty.”
But as she was being led back to her jail cell that day, the defendant, Margaret Goodliffe, had a retort for Clay.
“If he wasn’t on-duty, why am I being charged with attempted murder of a police officer?” she asked.
The case centers on an April 2019 incident when Oakland police Ofc. Danny Sy Chor noticed Goodliffe allegedly slashing tires in a parking lot on Jefferson Street, a few blocks from the police station. Chor had just finished his shift and was armed, but wearing civilian clothes. When he confronted her, she allegedly stabbed him three times – once in the neck, and twice in the shoulder. Chor “drew his off-duty firearm” and held Goodliffe at gunpoint until officers arrived and arrested her, Oakland police wrote in court records.
But Goodliffe’s attorney, Tiffany Danao, has argued that Chor’s account cannot be trusted. In court Dec. 7, she explained her reasoning for filing a so-called pitchess motion – a legal request for an officer’s personnel records – and noted that whether or not Chor was on-duty, he was employed as an officer in the city where the alleged crime occurred.
“I have information to suggest that in the course of his duties, (Chor) essentially fabricated another incident,” Danao said.
In 2018, the East Bay Express obtained video footage showing Chor driving through a red light at an Oakland intersection in 2017, and striking a motorcyclist, who had a green light. According to the East Bay Express, Chor scolded the motorcyclist, Elliot Van Fleet, and said multiple times that he stopped at the light. Chor’s vehicle cannot be seen in the video until it’s fully in the intersection, but appears to be traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the collision.
In 2018, Van Fleet settled a lawsuit against Chor and the city for $ 12 million, in an agreement that didn’t require Oakland police to admit wrongdoing. At the time it was the department’s highest lawsuit payout.
At the time of the stabbing, the city’s police union put out a statement praising county prosecutors for “recognizing” the incident as “a cowardly unprovoked attack that severely injured a police officer.”
Goodliffe’s next court appearance is set for Jan. 4, short records show. She has a tentatively set preliminary hearing date later that month.
Video of the crash involving Chor and Van Fleet, obtained by the Express, can be seen below: