Thursday, February 3, 2011 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — In a rare mid-trial dismissal Wednesday, a San Francisco man was cleared of felony domestic violence charges after his accuser lied multiple times on the stand, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Francisco Garcia, a 24-year-old kitchen manager, faced deportation and up to five years in state prison if convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt.
In late July, Garcia, a legal resident with no criminal history, was having frequent disagreements with his former girlfriend over visitation of his 2-year-old daughter. Garcia informed her by phone that he was planning to go to court to obtain a formal custody arrangement. She responded by telling Garcia things were going to “get really bad for him,” Quandt said.
Days later, she filled out a police report and applied for a restraining order, claiming that on July 27, Garcia smashed her head into the wall multiple times and threatened to kill her and their toddler with a knife. Despite the lack of injuries that supported her version of events, Garcia was arrested and she was awarded full custody of the girl until the case resolved.
During the trial, which began Jan. 20, the complaining witness lied about her name and gave conflicting answers to each detail of the alleged attack, Quandt said. Jurors, who were allowed to ask questions through the judge, asked the woman if she knew the meaning of a lie and how they were to determine the truth in the face of so many conflicting stories. She insisted she had no contact with Garcia after the alleged attack, but could not explain phone records showing that she called him about 100 times in the approximately 30 hours between the alleged attack and the day she filed the report.
On Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors admitted the complaining witness was not credible and dismissed all charges against Garcia.
Quandt said he was pleased with the outcome, but disappointed that the case made it to trial. Garcia lost his job and was allowed only one hour per week of supervised visitation with his child while charges were pending.
“Mr. Garcia is a law-abiding, loving father and he is very relieved to have a chance to get his life back,” Quandt said. “It’s unfortunate that police and prosecutors blindly trusted a woman with major motives to lie without completing the critical investigation that Mr. Garcia deserved.”
The jury, upon hearing the charges were dropped, clapped for Garcia’s vindication, Quandt said. Several jurors offered to write letters on his behalf so he could get his job back.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the case illustrates that innocent people can be falsely accused.
“This case demonstrates the importance of a thorough investigation and expert cross-examination, which ultimately proved that an innocent man had been set up by an untrustworthy witness. Fortunately, justice and common sense prevailed,” Adachi said.