Monday, October 15, 2018 · by Katy St. Clair
San Francisco man acquitted in bar brawl
A man who was caring for his ill girlfriend at a bar on Cinco de Mayo when he accidentally struck someone was acquitted of assault and battery charges today after a jury found no proof that he committed a crime, Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
John Chmiola, 37, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault likely to cause great bodily injury and two counts of battery, stemming from an incident on May 5 of this year at the Flanahan’s Pub in the Sunset. Chmiola faced up to one and a half years in jail if convicted.
The entire event was a “mountain made out of a molehill,” said Deputy Public Defender Jared Rudolph. Everyone involved in the event had been drinking, he added. “This case was about drunken confusion.”
Chmiola and his girlfriend were celebrating the holiday when his girlfriend became ill, he testified. The jury learned that the defendant went into the cramped, single-stall restroom to assist her when another woman came in behind him and put her hand on him, startling him and causing him to jump and accidently make contact with the woman’s face with his hand, resulting in an assault and battery charge.
The woman struck him back, but according to the evidence, the woman believed that when he struck her it was an accident, as she later said, “I definitely do believe he didn’t mean to do it.”
A retired police deputy drinking in the bar was there that day and, thinking Chmiola had assaulted a woman, grabbed him and dragged him outside, creating a scuffle and putting him in an armlock, injuring him in the process. Chmiola ended up in the hospital as a result of his injuries.
The retired deputy was kneeling on top of the defendant when the police arrived and he told them that Chmiola had bitten him, resulting in the second assault and battery charge.
The retired deputy never appeared in court to speak about his accusations, and an officer called to the scene never went into the bar, never wrote a report, and never interviewed witnesses, the evidence showed.
In the end, the jury decided that there was not enough evidence to convict a man that had just been trying to help his sick girlfriend.
“Mr. Chmiola the victim of a terrible assault at the hands of a bystander who attempted to take the law into his own hands,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “Fortunately, he had a public defender to fight for him and a jury that carefully weighed the evidence.”