A San Francisco man who San Mateo County prosecutors say tried to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new lover is going to trial this week in one of the county’s longest-running cases.
Cheng I. Cheng, 45, has been detained since the alleged 2004 stabbing in Redwood City, though the case has dragged on amid questions about Cheng’s mental competency to stand trial and an outburst from him early in his first trial last year. He faces life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, assault and battery.
“He’s been in custody, so at least the public has not been at risk from him during this time,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said, “but it’s been very frustrating trying to get this case to trial.”
Prosecutors say Cheng and his girlfriend were in a relationship for a few years before she broke it off in 2003 due to physical abuse. Then on June 3, 2004, Cheng confronted her at the Redwood City home where she was living with a new boyfriend, authorities say.
“[Cheng] was essentially harassing [his ex-girlfriend] and shouting, screaming, and the victim stepped in basically coming to her defense,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
At that point, Cheng pulled out an 8-inch kitchen knife and stabbed the man multiple times, prosecutors say, causing injuries that later required 45 stitches.
Defense attorney Jesse Ortiz said he will dispute the claim that Cheng stabbed the man, though he declined to discuss other details of the case.
Also, the lapse between the incident and the trial means prosecutors are not sure what to expect from a key witness — the ex-girlfriend.
The woman married the victim and had a child with him, but then changed her original statement to police and said her husband had been the aggressor, not Cheng, Wagstaffe said. That was years ago, however, and Wagstaffe is not sure what she will say now during the trial.
After a previous attorney raised doubts about Cheng’s competency, he was sent to Napa State Hospital several times between 2006 and late 2009, when a judge considered his competency restored, Wagstaffe said. But as jury selection was starting in October, Cheng began yelling in the courtroom, eventually forcing the judge to dismiss jurors and delay the case, Guidotti said.
“He was just shouting out about how he was being unfairly prosecuted. He just kept saying the same things over and over again,” said Guidotti, who was in the courtroom.
Ortiz said Cheng just wanted “more investigation” that the defense has since completed, and he does not expect another outburst or any other delays.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Ortiz said.