SF Public Defender Announces Jury Win for Man Who Acted in Self Defense, Criticizes Courts Again

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco prosecutors announced Sept. 8 they have dismissed all charges against 32-year-old Nelson Hernandez-DeLeon, who his public defender said “acted in defense of his friend during a fight outside a Mission District bar on Sept. 17, 2021″—Omar Cureno, 34, died in the fight.

“I want to thank our defense team for vigorously defending Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon. You are true warriors for our clients,” said elected San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “This is another case that demonstrates how critical it is for the San Francisco Superior Court to catch up with other jurisdictions and open more courts for trial.”

In a trial that began in March of 2022, a jury hung in deliberations late last month, voting 10-2 to acquit Hernandez-DeLeon of second-degree murder. Prosecutors subsequently offered Hernandez-DeLeon a plea to a lesser charge, but he declined. Now, all charges are dismissed.

“Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon was out catching up with old friends that night. He was not intoxicated, and he certainly was not looking for a fight,” said Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon.

The defense attorney added, “Mr. Cureno, according to his own friend, was extremely intoxicated, very angry, and looking for a fight when he approached my client. Mr. Cureno put brass knuckles on and accused Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon and his friend of laughing at him. Video evidence shows that Hernandez-DeLeon did not take out his work utility knife until after Mr. Cureno struck him three times in the head with brass knuckles.

“Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon,” the defense argued, “tried to leave the fight twice, but went back solely to rescue his badly beaten friend and actually saved his friend’s life. Assistant District Attorney Justine Cephus did the right thing here by finally dismissing these charges.”

The Public Defender Office said Hernandez-DeLeon spent over a year in jail.

The PD added, “His Constitutionally mandated deadline for getting a speedy trial was in January 2022, but like more than 150 other San Franciscans, he was forced to languish in jail for months past that deadline because the Superior Court has refused to open enough courtrooms for trials. After the mistrial was declared in June, his deadline for a retrial was in August, yet he remained jailed until the remaining charges were dismissed last week.”

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