One of three men accused of beating two Mexican nationals in the Tenderloin last year testified Tuesday that he and his friends assaulted the men but were not motivated by hate, as prosecutors have alleged.
Anthony Weston, 33, told jurors that after a day of heavy drinking on Nov. 9, he, Robert Allen, 39, Justin Meskan, 29, and another man came across another drunken man at Hyde and O’Farrell streets outside the Nite Cap bar, and a fight began.
Prosecutors say witnesses heard the group of white men yell “white power” during the attack, and they have charged it as a hate crime. Defense attorneys insist it was just a drunken brawl.
Weston acknowledged that he and his friends beat up the man, and another man who came to his aid, but denied it was a hate crime. “I’m not going to lie to help you prosecute those gentlemen over there,” Weston, referring to Allen and Meskan, told prosecutor Victor Hwang.
Weston said one of the Mexicans, holding a beer bottle, bumped into him and Allen while crossing the street. Words were exchanged, and Weston then punched the man, he said. Then Allen and Meskan joined in, he said.
The man, who was reportedly kicked while on the ground, was found bleeding and nearly unconscious in the street, and Weston said he and another man carried him to the sidewalk. “He was pretty beat up,” Weston said. “He was done.”
While Weston said he could not remember anything racist being yelled, he did recall Allen telling a group of bystanders toward the end of the fight, “This is our town” or “This is our city.”
Despite Weston’s insistence it wasn’t a hate crime, he pleaded guilty to assault and hate crimes last month in return for his testimony and a sentence of probation. He had been facing up to 10 years in prison.
As part of the deal, he also agreed to identify white supremacist groups and their members operating in San Francisco.
Weston, a convicted felon who had served prior prison sentences, admitted that he had been a member of a white supremacist skinhead group for several years, but said he quit the group in 2007.
“I just really didn’t agree with the politics,” he said. “And I was tired of prison and crime and drugs.”
But Weston said he feared he will now become a target for violence.
“I’m definitely in a bad spot,” he said.