The long-tangled case against a San Francisco firefighter accused of drunkenly plowing his fire rig into a motorcyclist in the city’s South of Market neighborhood — only to then run to a nearby bar to chug water — ended in a guilty plea on a significantly lesser charge, prosecutors said Monday.
Michael Quinn, who resigned from the San Francisco Fire Department after the 2013 crash, pleaded guilty Friday to one misdemeanor count of delaying an arrest and was sentenced to two years probation, bringing an end to an unusual saga.
A grand jury indicted Quinn, 47, in 2014 on three felony counts of drunken driving, but more than a year later a San Francisco judge tossed key evidence, including Breathalyzer and blood tests, hobbling the prosecution’s case.
District Attorney George Gascón, nevertheless, opted to pursue charges after the judge’s ruling.
The episode began around 11:30 p.m. on June 29, 2013, when Quinn, a 20-year department veteran, slammed his rig into motorcyclist Jack Frazier at Fifth and Howard streets. Frazier was thrown into a nearby fire hydrant and suffered serious injuries to his ribs, hip and ankle.
Frazier, who was under the influence of marijuana, had a green light but was required to yield to emergency vehicles. The San Francisco city attorney’s office and Board of Supervisors in 2016 agreed to pay Frazier nearly $5 million to settle his civil case against the city.
Video evidence of the crash was played for the grand jury and showed Quinn’s truck blowing through a red light at the intersection at 25 mph. Department rules require fire rigs to slow down as a precaution.
Quinn left the scene half an hour after the wreck and was captured on video chugging nearly four pitchers of water at the nearby Chieftain pub. A fellow firefighter reported that he’d seen Quinn vomit into a trash can, prosecutors said.
What’s more, prosecutors said, Quinn didn’t return to his nearby fire station for nearly two hours.
Once back at the station, he submitted to three Breathalyzer tests, all of which showed he was over the legal limit. Police arrested Quinn and drew his blood at 6 a.m. the next morning. The test showed his blood alcohol content was .11 — still over the .08 legal driving limit.
Prosecutors estimated Quinn’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash could have been as high as .31 percent.
The case against him began to fall apart when San Francisco Superior Court Judge Kay Tsenin dismissed the Breathalyzer tests as unreliable, because the Fire Department did not properly calibrate its equipment. As a result, there wasn’t enough evidence for police to arrest Quinn, Tsenin ruled, and the blood evidence collected by police was also tossed. Prosecutors appealed the ruling but lost.
Several firefighters, including two assistant chiefs, were suspended by Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White for mishandling the incident.
Quinn’s attorney, James Bustamante, did not immediately return phone calls. Officials with the San Francisco Fire Department said they could not comment on the case.