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).

Murder trial of tenant attorney to begin after legal back and forth

The murder trial of an attorney accused of fatally stabbing a man on Sixth Street is scheduled to begin Tuesday after Public Defender Jeff Adachi fledged weeks of legal battles seeking to get his client off scot free.

Carlos Argueta, a 34-year-old attorney who worked for the Eviction Defense Collaborative, is facing murder and robbery charges for allegedly stabbing James “Rick” Thomas in a drunken tussle over a bag near Market Street on Sept. 3, 2015.

A grand jury indicted Argueta on the charges last year after a judge found there was insufficient evidence for him to face the initial charges of murder, robbery and assault charges at the end of a preliminary hearing in 2016.

Defense attorneys have long argued that Argueta stabbed Thomas in self-defense. But Adachi, who has decided to represent Argueta himself, turned to more unconventional tactics to fight the case in recent weeks.

Since accusing a prosecutor of misconduct on Sept. 7 in a motion to dismiss the indictment, the public defender has alleged that a judge, who he does not want to decide on whether to throw out the case, is biased against Latinos.

Adachi escalated the tension last Tuesday when he hired a polygraph examiner to test a Latina deputy public defender who claimed that Judge Ethan Schulman once asked her during another case, “When is this telenovela going to end?”

Adachi said Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Camacho passed the test and challenged Schulman to take one.

Schulman has unequivocally denied making the statement, and provided parts of the court record that he said showed he could not have made the statement.

“I would certainly invite Judge Schulman to take a polygraph exam,” Adachi said. “In fact, we’ll pay for it.”

In the midst of all the back-and-forth, the District Attorney’s Office sought a gag order to prevent Adachi and prosecutors from discussing the case Sept. 27.

Prosecutor Adam Maldonado alleged that increasing media coverage is likely to impact the fairness of the trial because of references to the case previously being dismissed, prosecutors lacking evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Ganz, who previously worked on the case, is facing charges at the State Bar Court for allegedly withholding evidence in a murder case out of Solano County.

Adachi based his motion to dismiss on Ganz, who is currently awaiting a verdict in that court.

The motions are still pending.

The Argueta trial is scheduled for Dept. 13 before Judge Samuel Feng.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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