Thursday, June 7, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A man accused of throwing hot oil from a frying pan into his roommate’s face was found not guilty after a jury determined he acted in self-defense, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jury members deliberated only 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon before acquitting Felipe Manrique, 48, of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury, all felonies. Manrique, who had never been arrested before, faced seven years in prison, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Matt Sotorosen.
Manrique was arrested Feb. 28 after his plans for a late-night snack were upended by a violent confrontation with his new roommate, 49-year-old Pedro Torres. However, the tension between the two restaurant workers started shortly after Torres moved into the Tenderloin apartment Feb. 1, Sotorosen said.
Torres paid Manrique $200 in rent with the promise he would provide the remaining $100 later that week. Torres never paid, however, and Manrique noticed that two of his rings were missing from the bedroom they shared. When he asked his new roommate about the rings, Torres responded in a threatening manner, yelling profanities.
Midway through the month, when it became apparent Torres had no plans to pay the remainder of the rent, Manrique told him he would have to leave by March 1 and again asked him about the missing rings. Torres exploded in anger, telling Manrique he should beat him up for the accusation. Manrique later testified that he was intimidated by the exchange.
The day of the altercation, Manrique left work, drank two beers at two local bars, and came home to make breakfast. As he heated up oil to prepare scrambled eggs and tortillas, Torres appeared in the doorway and began staring him down, he said.
Knowing Torres would be moving out, Manrique asked him a final time about the rings. Torres snapped, telling Manrique he was going to “kick his ass” before lunging at him and throwing a punch, Manrique said.
“Mr. Manrique responded by moving his right hand reflexively in self-defense while holding the frying pan,” Sotorosen said. “He did not seek the fight. He did not instigate the fight. He only used force to ward off the attack that had been thrust upon him.”
Torres was treated for second degree burns on his face and wrist and released from the hospital the same day. He does not have lasting scars from the incident.
Both men took the stand during the four day trial.
“Their stories were very different, but the jury found Mr. Manrique to be far more credible,” Sotorosen said.
Adachi said justice was done in the case.
“What began as a terrible accident became a criminal prosecution with Mr. Manrique locked behind bars until he could explain what really happened,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, Mr. Manrique’s public defender showed through his presentation of the case that Mr. Manrique acted reasonably under the circumstances and the jury agreed.”