San Francisco, CA — A man facing life in prison after fighting back against a knife-wielding assailant was freed after being acquitted of numerous felonies, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.

Darren Cubie, 39, was released from San Francisco County jail Monday after a jury cleared him of mayhem, battery with serious bodily injury, and assault causing serious bodily injury. A judge acquitted Cubie of torture just before the case went to a jury, and prosecutors dismissed a petty theft charge at the close of their case due to lack of evidence. Cubie was convicted solely of simple assault, a misdemeanor, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Hilton.

Cubie was arrested May 11, 2015 following a physical altercation that sent both him and a 45-year-old man to the hospital. The trouble between began as a disagreement at a Capp Street neighborhood services center, where both men were clients. The complaining witness approached Cubie aggressively, using racial slurs and pushing him up against a row of lockers. Cubie punched the man, and the two were separated and ejected from the center.

To diffuse the situation, center staff sent Cubie on his way first. After a waiting period, they sent out the other man and instructed him to travel in the opposite direction from Cubie. The man defied the instruction and set off after Cubie, who he found organizing his clothing on the sidewalk.

An eyewitness testified that the man strode up to Cubie and pulled out a box cutter with a 4-inch blade. Cubie repeatedly told the man to leave him alone and that the fight was over, the eyewitness testified.

When the man lunged at Cubie with the knife, the unarmed Cubie defended himself by punching the assailant multiple times. The man suffered fractures to the face that required multiple metal plates to repair. Cubie took the stand and described how he tried to avoid the fight, but when he realized he had no choice, he defended himself with his hands.

It was not the first time the complaining witness had attacked a person with a knife. A 2007 stabbing victim took the stand, testifying that the same man who wielded a box cutter at Cubie slashed his hand at a homeless center in an unprovoked attack, resulting in 33 stitches.

The complaining witness also took the stand, claiming he didn’t carry knifes and couldn’t remember anything about what happened outside the center during the physical altercation with Cubie. He told a fantastical story about the 2007 stabbing that was contradicted by the victim of that crime, Hilton said.

“I believe that the jury understood the fear Mr. Cubie must have felt when being confronted with a knife. The verdict demonstrates that they felt he acted in lawful self-defense for the majority of the struggle,” Hilton said. “The case was incredibly overcharged. If the district attorney had looked beneath the injuries at the underlying conduct, it would have been clear that Mr. Cubie was the real victim.”

Adachi said the case was self-defense.

“Mr. Cubie was defending his life. Fortunately, his public defender was able to free him, but not before he spent 10 months behind bars,” Adachi said.

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