Tuesday, December 18, 2018 · by Katy St. Clair
Tenants’ Rights Attorney Finally Gets Justice San Francisco—A tenant’s rights attorney who fatally injured a man in self-defense in the Tenderloin was acquitted of on all counts today, Public Defender Jeff Adachi has announced.
Carlos Argueta, 35, was tried for second degree robbery and murder after he became involved in a tussle outside a bar on Sixth Street in September of 2015. The case has resulted in a three-year nightmare for Mr. Argueta, who’s case was originally dismissed by a judge on the grounds that it was a case of self-defense. The District Attorney then decided to take the case to a grand jury, and Mr. Argueta found himself facing trial again. He could have been convicted of one of three charges: second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. The jury acquitted him of all three, and the judge in the trial, Samuel Feng, dismissed the robbery charge mid-trial. The night began when Argueta and an intern at this office had gone out to the bar near their work. Though both had drinks, the intern became very intoxicated, and the jury saw surveillance video of him weaving down the street, with Argueta attempting to help him. On their way, the intern mistakenly grabbed a backpack that belonged to James “Rick” Thomas, and that was when the trouble began. An angered Thomas can be seen on the video wrestling the bag from the intern. Argueta, thinking that Thomas was trying to take his friend’s bag, attempted to get it and Thomas and Argueta were soon tussling over it, with Argueta pinned up against a car. More people joined the fray, and the intern was struck over the head with a skateboard. At this point, Argueta attempted to leave the situation but was surrounded by a group of men. When he emerged from the group, with his hands up in a “surrender” pose,” his messenger bag was no longer with him. Both he and the intern began to head up Market Street, but were again pursued by Thomas and a group of men. On the surveillance footage, men could be seen pushing the intern into the ground and Thomas could be seen hitting swinging his backpack at Argueta.
At this point, fearing being overpowered, Argueta pulled out a knife to defend himself. The men retreated, but Argueta realized that he didn’t have his messenger bag and that it had important documents inside it related to his law clients. He returned to the last place he had it to look for it, and once there, Thomas could be seen on video punching him in the ear as a struggle ensued. In an automatic response, Argueta pushed Thomas away with the knife in his hand, injuring him fatally.
“Carlos was the last person who would ever intentionally stab anyone or try to hurt them,” said Adachi. “This case was a tragic accident, not an intentional killing. We thank the jurors for their hard work in arriving at a verdict based on the evidence.”
Character witnesses testified in the case and Mr. Argueta himself took the stand to tell his side of the story. When the not guilty verdicts were read, he wept, along with members of his family. But Adachi told the jury that Mr. Argueta will live with the tragic event for the rest of his life. “Carlos thinks about that night every day,” said Adachi. “It was a terrible accident and our hearts go out to the Thomas family.”