Coffee Talk: Scalded Butler Says He’s Been Burned by Media

Categories: Media


The man whose 2005 dousing with a cupful of Starbucks led to a bizarre case profiled in the Sept. 5
S.F Weekly says the situation is even stranger than we’d been led to believe.

By Joe Eskenazi

Oddly enough, Chris Daniels does not drink coffee. His unsought 15 minutes of fame came from wearing it.

Daniels, frequent S.F. Weekly readers may already know, is the former Getty family butler who had a mug of near-boiling java tossed in his lap, which led to a couple of lawsuits and an alleged police and District Attorney’s office conspiracy to bust the coffee-tosser, Jill Karen Schaffer.

Confused? Good. That’s natural.

Anyhow, here’s the situation in a nutshell as I wrote it in the Sept. 5 edition:

Following the traffic altercation that led to butler Chris Daniels allegedly calling Schaffer "a miserable fucking cunt" and subsequently nursing first- and second-degree coffee burns, District Attorney Kamala Harris opted not to file charges, despite a personal call from Ann Getty herself. Months later, however, a pair of policemen, Officer John Fewer and Sgt. John Haggett, allegedly leaned on Assistant District Attorney Reve Bautista to file charges against Schaffer, who was subsequently arrested. But here's the kicker: Fewer was, at the time, working his off-hours as a Getty family security guard and his pal, Haggett, was close friends with Bautista. Anyhow, the charges were subsequently dropped and Bautista was disciplined for filing the case.

That, to put it mildly, is not how Daniels remembers it (though he really did end up with first- and second-degree burns). For one, he denies calling Schaffer a “miserable fucking cunt” – or as Schaffer is also claiming in her current wrongful arrest lawsuit vs. the city and county of San Francisco, a “dirty fucking whore.”

“I don’t have any recollection of saying that – but I don’t think it was beyond me after having a quart-sized cup of steaming coffee dumped in my lap,” he said gruffly.

“There was foul language on both sides.”

While Daniels feels media reports have painted him as “a villain,” a San Francisco Small Claims Court judge found a different word to describe him in May: Victim.

Daniels won his case against Schaffer, who was mandated to pay him $2,000 and an additional $279 in costs according to the Notice of Entry of Judgment obtained by the Weekly. Daniels claimed he hasn’t seen a cent of it.

And while some have portrayed the labyrinthine case as an example of one of the world’s most powerful families using its associates and influence to harass an enemy, Daniels has a different – and equally conspiratorial – reading of the situation. While it’s not a wholly implausible scenario, Daniels’ theory is also just the sort of thing libel laws don’t allow newspapers to reproduce.

Though we can tell you this: The butler thinks it’s highly intriguing that the work phone number and address of alleged eyewitness Janelle Cahill listed on the initial police report turn out to be those of the office of Jim Collins – one of San Francisco’s most feared and effective lawyers.

Daniels left the employ of the Gettys around 16 months ago. He said it was a mutual parting of the ways and refused to elaborate on whether the legal firestorm touched off by his dousing was a factor. He currently works in Hillsborough for “a hedge fund guy.” Life has been more uneventful of late.

“I’m not a Getty puppet and I didn’t want this to happen; Who wants a cup of hot coffee dumped in their lap?” he asked -- rhetorically, one would presume.

On Sept. 5 “I was sitting down to eat onion rings and read one of my favorite [S.F. Weekly] columns, and I thought, ‘Oh crap. This is about me.’”

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