San Francisco, CA — A visually impaired man who was temporarily blinded in a vicious attack was acquitted of assaulting a female bar patron after a jury determined he acted in self-defense, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated an hour Monday before finding Napoleon Wommack, 29, not guilty of assault likely to produce great bodily injury. Wommack, the owner of a barbershop and art gallery in Oakland, faced up to a year in county jail if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Camacho.
On Jan. 25, Wommack was at Mission District lounge Bruno’s, celebrating the fifth anniversary of a colleague’s barbershop.
Wommack, who wears a prosthetic eye due to a childhood accident, accidentally bumped into a man due to his visual impairment. The man became enraged and began pushing and swearing at Wommack, who walked away.
Moments later, the man and two women approached Wommack. The trio cornered Wommack as he sat with friends and the man angrily told him to leave. Wommack stood up. His friend, who witnessed the confrontation, put his arm around Wommack to usher him away.
The man then punched Wommack’s friend in the head, knocking him out. He then struck Wommack in the face and back of the head with a bottle, causing him to lose sight in his one working eye. Wommack fell to the ground, bleeding profusely.
“Mr. Wommack was blind. He was in complete darkness,” Camacho said. People began punching and kicking him as he lay on the ground. With blood running down his face, Wommack fought for his life, striking out blindly around him.
Nightclub security guards broke up the melee and called police. One of the women who confronted Wommack told police he choked and punched her, and he was arrested.
Wommack was left handcuffed and injured on the floor of the club for 40 minutes. Police never sought his side of the story, Camacho said. Wommack received stitches to his eyelid, forehead and the back of his head. He remains scarred today, with a disfigured ear and a permanent discoloration under his eye. His remaining eyesight was not permanently damaged.
The alleged victim, who was uninjured, testified Wommack choked her with his bloody hands until she stopped breathing. However, photos revealed she had no bruising and none of Wommack’s blood on her neck. She changed her story frequently on the stand, alternately testifying that she had two drinks, three drinks, four drinks and five drinks, Camacho said.
“Mr. Wommack was truly an innocent victim who was left bloodied and blinded. Nobody helped him and nobody listened to him—not the bar patrons, not the police, and not the district attorney,” Camacho said. “Finally, a jury heard his story and delivered justice.”
Wommack originally faced a felony charge until a judge reduced it to a misdemeanor in the interest of justice, Camacho said. He spent a month in jail, which hurt his business.
Adachi said the charge against Wommack was an injustice.
“Not only was Mr. Wommack the victim of a terrible beating that left him with permanent injuries, he spent a month behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, he had a public defender to fight for him and a jury that carefully weighed the evidence.”