DA to drop second round of charges against suspect in Embarcadero attack

Austin James Vincent was misidentified as assailant in earlier case after his mug ran in the news

Austin James Vincent was living in Southern California when one of the two attacks he is accused of committing occurred, his defense attorney said Tuesday. (Courtesy photos)

A man accused of attacking a woman outside her Embarcadero home earlier this month was wrongly identified as the suspect in another assault after his mugshot was plastered all over the news, his attorney said Tuesday.

Austin James Vincent, a 25-year-old homeless man, was living in Southern California in February when the second victim was attacked by a man with a knife in South of Market, according to his attorney Saleem Belbahri.

Police have confirmed that Vincent was, in fact, not in The City at the time of the February attack, according to the District Attorney’s Office. As a result, prosecutors plan to drop the charges that Vincent is facing over the additional incident.

“However, the defendant continues to face charges in connection with the incident from earlier this month,” said DA spokesperson Alex Bastian. “We will once again ask that he remain in custody.”

Vincent’s booking photo was widely shared on the internet after police arrested him for allegedly grabbing Paneez Kosarian on Aug. 11 as she tried to enter the lobby of her condo building on Beale Street.

The case drew attention after Kosarian posted a video of the attack on social media, and a neighborhood group used the footage to call for city officials to stop building a homeless shelter next to the condo building.

A judge had decided to release Vincent from jail pending trial on Aug. 13 before the video surfaced.

But in the days that followed, the other woman saw a mugshot of Vincent in the news. She identified him to police as the man who jabbed at her with a knife and threatened to kill her while she waited for an Uber with friends on Feb. 4.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Vincent on Aug. 16 in connection with the February incident.

He surrendered himself to authorities at the Hall of Justice on Aug. 19. Based on the new allegations involving a knife, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christine Van Aken decided not to release Vincent again.

But on Tuesday, the Public Defender’s Office issued a statement saying Belbahri had proven that Vincent “could not have been the perpetrator.” He has filed a motion seeking to have the new charges dropped.

“I received word from the DA today that they were able to corroborate the information I submitted in the bail motion, and have indicated that they plan to throw out the charges tomorrow,” Belbahri said.

Belbahri plans to ask the judge to return Vincent to a supervised release program, the office said.

Vincent has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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