Wednesday, November 14, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A Spanish man whose romantic holiday to San Francisco ended in a nearly seven week jail stint has been freed after a jury acquitted him of battery, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated less than 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon before finding 38-year-old Francisco Arnaiz Martin not guilty of one count of misdemeanor battery. Arnaiz Martin, who had no criminal history, faced up to a year in county jail if convicted.
Arnaiz Martin arrived in the U.S. in mid-September to spend a month with his long distance girlfriend, a 33-year-old San Francisco woman. The pair met in March while the woman studied abroad in Madrid, said Arnaiz Martin’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender JP Visaya.
On Sept. 28, the couple went drinking at a Folsom Street nightclub. Arnaiz Martin testified he became upset and walked out of the bar when a drag queen, with whom the couple had been dancing, kissed his girlfriend.
His girlfriend followed him outside and an argument ensued, with Arnaiz Martin repeating that he wanted to be by himself. His girlfriend tried to prevent him from walking away by pulling at his shirt and arms and blocking his path with her arms.
“Mr. Arnaiz Martin moved his girlfriend’s arms away from him. Because she was intoxicated and in high heels, she fell onto the sidewalk and scraped her knees,” Visaya said.
An angry mob then gathered around the couple, punching Arnaiz Martin and spraying him with pepper spray. Police responded and sent the couple home together after medics treated both Arnaiz Martin and his girlfriend for their injuries.
Once at the girlfriend’s house, however, the couple began loudly arguing again. Police were called at approximately 4 a.m., and told Arnaiz Martin to leave for the night.
When Arnaiz Martin returned at 8 a.m. to retrieve his clothes, passport and travel documents, nobody came to the apartment door. After knocking repeatedly and going outside to call up to the window, Arnaiz Martin kicked down the front door. His girlfriend was inside the apartment and the two began arguing for a third time, Visaya said. Police were again called, but this time Arnaiz Martin was arrested. He was charged with battery for allegedly pushing his girlfriend down outside the nightclub and vandalism for damage to her door.
At the three day trial, a nightclub security guard called by the prosecution testified that he never saw Arnaiz Martin push his girlfriend. The guard said he called police for Arnaiz Martin’s protection after drunken patrons began to attack him on the sidewalk at closing time.
Arnaiz Martin also took the stand, testifying that he was simply trying to move his girlfriend from his path so he could leave.
“The jury found Mr. Arnaiz Martin credible,” Visaya said. “The prosecution didn’t bring a single witness that could testify they saw Mr. Arnaiz Martin push his girlfriend.”
The vandalism charge was dismissed mid-trial after the woman’s landlord agreed to a civil compromise and Arnaiz Martin’s relatives arranged with the Spanish Consulate and Public Defender’s Office to wire the money for the door.
Adachi praised the jury for carefully examining the facts of the case.
“Mr. Arnaiz Martin’s public defender rightly argued that a conviction cannot be based on the reaction of a drunken mob,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, the jurors came to the right decision and Mr. Arnaiz Martin can finally go home and put this nightmare behind him.”