COURT WATCH: SF Jury Finds Unhoused Man Not Guilty After He Defended Himself from Death Threats, Bear Spray Attack by Alleged ‘Victim’

San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by David M. Greenwald

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A man here accused of three felony assault and battery charges for defending himself against death threats and a bear spray attack by a Marina District resident last March was found not guilty by a San Francisco Superior Court jury late last week.

Garret Doty, 25, according to Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, is unhoused and was “in fear for his life and fought back to protect himself. Jurors heard testimony from 11 witnesses, reviewed chronological surveillance footage of the altercation, and rendered a verdict that Doty was not guilty.”

The DPD said the incident was widely reported after the complaining witness/alleged victim Donald Carmignani’s attorneys released select video footage of the incident which did not include footage of how the altercation began. 

“Evidence and testimony later revealed that Carmignani first went after Doty with bear spray (and)  also threatened to stab and kill him if he didn’t move his belongings in two hours. When Carmignani left, Doty tried to move his belongings and also obtained a metal rod from a garbage bin for protection. Carmignani returned fifteen minutes later where he stood against a building and baited Doty to come closer before spraying him again and instigating the ensuing altercation,” said the defense.

“From the beginning, it was clear to me that Mr. Doty was acting in self-defense against Mr. Carmignani, who not only had the audacity to attack Mr. Doty with bear spray and then threatened to stab and kill Mr. Doty, but also presented himself as unwilling to back down from a fight that he had started,” said Hathaway. “Self-defense can be fierce because the brain goes into survival mode, and that fear response is sadly heightened for unhoused people, like Mr. Doty, who live in constant exposure.”

The lead police investigator’s report of the Doty case noted about eight other pepper spray attacks on unhoused people in the neighborhood that may have been “possibly related.” 

The PD Office said, “One report included a video of a man spraying a person who was sleeping on the sidewalk on Carmignani’s block of Magnolia Street in November 2021. A neighbor testified that police obtained that video after he called 911 to assist the person who had been sprayed. Carmignani’s ex-mother-in-law also testified under subpoena that she had called police in May 2023 to identify the assailant in the video as her former son-in-law.”

Carmignani did not testify in Doty’s trial, reported the defense, but he did testify during the preliminary hearing where he “invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination whenever he was questioned about any prior use of pepper or bear spray.”

“I commend Mr. Doty’s defense team for boldly confronting the disinformation that was spread at the onset of this case,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.

Raju added, “So often our indigent clients are wrongly accused when they are actually the victims of violence and harassment because they do not have the social clout of those who may dehumanize them.”

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