Defense motion to dismiss murder indictment against tenant rights lawyer denied

Video still appearing to show Carlos Argueta waving a knife within moments of allegedly stabbing James Thomas on Sixth and Market streets Sept. 3, 2015 (Courtesy photo).

A judge in San Francisco ruled Monday there was no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the indictment of a tenant rights lawyer on murder charges by a grand jury in 2017.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman denied a motion from Public Defender Jeff Adachi seeking to dismiss the indictment against his client, Carlos Argueta, for allegedly stabbing a man to death at Sixth and Market streets in 2015.

Adachi accused prosecutor Andrew Ganz of misconduct, saying he caused witnesses to change their testimony at the grand jury proceedings from a preliminary hearing months earlier so that evidence of self-defense would be withheld from the jury.

Charges against Argueta and a co-defendant, Pascal Krummenacher, were dismissed following that preliminary hearing in November 2016, but prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against Argueta alone in May of 2017.

Ganz was found culpable of four to six counts of prosecutorial misconduct last month by a State Bar Court in an unrelated 2013 Solano County murder trial and received a recommendation that he be suspended for 90 days, which Adachi referenced in his motion.

But Schulman wrote that Ganz’s previous actions of prosecutorial misconduct were irrelevant.

“That a prosecutor may have committed misconduct in one case is not ‘proof’ that the same prosecutor committed misconduct years later in an unrelated case pending in a different jurisdiction and involving different parties and evidence,” Schulman wrote.

Schulman said Adachi had provided no evidence of wrongdoing and that inconsistencies in testimony were more likely due to the five-month delay between the two proceedings and not any deliberate manipulation.

Adachi also tried to prevent Schulman from ruling on the motion by accusing him of being prejudiced against Latinos and criminal defendants, but a Santa Clara County judge ruled the accusations were baseless.

Schulman’s decision means that Argueta’s murder trial, which is currently underway, will continue.

SEE RELATED: Defense calls killing a ‘tragic accident’ as trial of tenants rights attorney begins

“In this case alone Mr. Adachi has made bogus accusations that a judge was a racist and that a prosecutor committed misconduct. He also had his employee take a polygraph test and asked grand jurors to commit a crime,” said Max Szabo, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office. “These are disgusting tactics and they cross the line from zealous to reckless representation.”

Adachi included statements in his motion from four grand jurors saying they might have voted differently had they been shown testimony from the preliminary hearing.

But Schulman declared their statements inadmissible and did not consider them when ruling. He said grand jurors take an oath stating they “will not disclose any evidence brought before the grand jury, nor anything which I or any other grand juror may say, nor the manner in which I or any other grand juror may have voted on any matter before the grand jury.”

Grand jurors who violate the oath are guilty of a criminal offense, Schulman wrote.

SEE RELATED: SF prosecutors accuse public defender of impropriety in murder case

Adachi was not immediately available for comment before press time.

 


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