By Manuel Espinoza
SAN FRANCISCO – On February 05, 2020, a preliminary hearing was held in Department 9 in the San Francisco Hall of Justice. The hearing was seen by Judge Rita F. Lin.
The hearing was to determine if the defendant, Asafo Ia, had assaulted a man outside of the bar he was employed at. Defending Mr. Ia was Deputy Public Defender Christopher Delgado. The complaining witness was present in the courtroom and was called to the stand by Assistant District Attorney Nabilah Hossain.
The prosecution began by asking the victim about his background and what he had been doing prior to the situation. He stated that he is currently 26 and has his own business. Additionally, an interpreter was present for the complaining witness because he is from Guatemala and felt most comfortable testifying in Spanish, although he is able to have minimal communication in English.
On the night of the incident, the complaining witness had been cleaning his truck with his brother-in-law, which they finished around 12:30 a.m. After the two finished, they went to the store and purchased a pack of beers, where the complaining witness had exactly three beers. Their next move was to head over to a bar in the area, which is where the complaining witness made contact with the defendant.
The complaining witness had arrived at the bar at around 12:50 am with his brother-in-law, where he claimed to have had an additional three beers. The prosecution pushed forward and asked about where the two made contact.
He testified that around 1:40 am, “Security told me to leave but I hadn’t finished my beer.” The complaining witness also noted that he was not drunk at the time when the defendant confronted him. After being asked to leave, the complaining witness added that he told the defendant to wait for him to finish his beer because he knew that bars close at 2:00 am.
After the initial contact, the defendant allegedly got angry and pulled the complaining witness out of the bar. Once outside of the bar, the defendant allegedly struck the complaining witness the face, causing him to fall to the ground and begin bleeding from his forehead.
“I have a scar on my face from when he hit me on my head with his head,” the complaining witness testified.
Immediately after being struck, he claimed there were many unfamiliar people outside, and that later on some of his friends had arrived.
The prosecution then asked the complaining witness to describe his injury to the courtroom. He said that he was taken to the hospital by the police, where he received 11 stitches as a result of being struck. The prosecution presented a photo of the complaining witness’s injury which was taken when he was at the hospital.
The complaining witness stated that he was in pain for about 2-3 weeks following the injury. He also added that this attack was unprovoked.
The defense asked the complaining witness about the lead up to being thrown out of the bar. The complaining witness stated that there were others in the bar when asked to leave at 1:40 am, so he did not feel the need to do so until finishing his beer. The defense questioned why the complaining witness felt that he could disobey an employee of the bar, to which he claimed that he did not infer that the defendant was a security guard and did not identify himself as such.
The defense also asked the complaining witness who he was with at the bar. The complaining witness stated that he was only with his brother-in-law and was sure that nobody else was present with them.
When the defendant had pulled the complaining witness out of the bar, his brother-in-law soon followed.
The defense had noted that the complaining witness had 6 beers in the span of about an hour and 10 minutes, raising questions of his blood alcohol content.
The defense asked the complaining witness about his compensation and the actions before coming to testify. The complaining witness had been asked to testify in court, and he had also requested money be given to him in order to pay off his hospital bills. There was also a gentleman that accompanied the complaining witness to the courtroom who was identified as an attorney that he had asked for advice.
The complaining witness claimed that he had been subpoenaed by the district attorney, and also that the purpose of the attorney accompanying was only to see how he would pay his hospital bills.
The prosecution’s next witness was San Francisco Police Officer Alexander Lendz. Officer Lendz has served for the SF Police Department for 9 years, and he was the officer who responded to the 911 call on the night of the incident. By the time Officer Lendz arrived at the scene, the defendant was already in custody.
The defense presented video evidence of the the complaining witness in the bar at the time of the incident. Officer Lendz had previously reviewed the footage, seeing the interaction between the two. Officer Lendz then issued an arrest warrant for the defendant. The defense presented the arrest warrant to the courtroom and noted that there were others with the complaining witness based on the content of the warrant. Officer Lendz noted that there was one lady and two other men at a table in the bar with the complaining witness.
The prosecution verified that Officer Lendz was not there personally at the time of the incident and did not speak to any other witnesses.
With no further witnesses, the prosecution presented the complaining witness’s medical record showing the severity of the injury he had received.
The defense noted that Officer Lendz and the video footage actually contradicted the complaining witness’s claims that he was only with his brother-in-law at the bar that night. The defense also argued that, although the complaining witness sustained a laceration, this was not a significant injury and used historical court cases to back up this claim. The defense claimed that as an employee of the bar the defendant was simply doing his job, and that the complaining witness had likely been intoxicated along with his friends.
The prosecution made their rebuttal by saying that the officer did not speak to witnesses at the scene and was not there himself. The video footage had not been admitted as evidence.
The prosecution also argued that the laceration sustained should be considered a serious bodily injury because it left a permanent disfiguration in the form of a scar. The prosecution also added that the defendant took it upon himself to escalate the situation by getting physical.
After hearing both sides make their cases, Judge Lin determined that the defendant be charged with the crime. Due to the force, size, and duration of the injury, Judge Lin also deemed it to be a great bodily injury. Judge Lin notified the courtroom that the complaining witness was credible and ordered an arraignment of the defendant.
The trial is set for Feb. 19, 2020 in Department 22 in the San Francisco Hall of Justice.