Carlos Argueta, right, has been recharged with murder for allegedly killing 61-year-old James Thomas in 2015. (Courtesy Argueta family)

Tenants’ rights lawyer denied release after being recharged for murder

A tenants’ rights attorney who has been recharged with murder for allegedly killing a 61-year-old man in the South of Market area in 2015 was denied release Friday on his own recognizance from County Jail, but his bail was reduced in a Superior Court hearing.

Carlos Argueta, 33, who waved to his friends and family in court after the judge’s decision, was a tenants’ rights lawyer in San Francisco when the alleged crime occurred on Sept. 3, 2015.

The killing of James “Rick” Thomas occurred outside of Tu Lan Vietnamese near Market and Sixth streets. The initial charges against him were dropped because of a lack of evidence, but he was recharged in late May in an indictment from a grand jury for murder.

“It’s very unusual that you will have this type of person in this type of case,” said Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng, who added that factors such as his current employment and that fact that he is a lawyer did not impact his decision. “The court is not going to get the motion for OR [own recognizance].”

There is no bail schedule for murder, so judges are allowed to set bail in such cases.

Both Argueta and Pascal Krummenacher, a former intern at the nonprofit Eviction Defense Collaborative, had been charged with murder for the killing. But at their preliminary hearing in November 2016, Judge Kay Tseni decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Argueta and Krummenacher.

The District Attorney’s Office refiled the charges because it disagreed with the judge’s decision in Argueta’s case, Max Szabo, a spokesperson for the office, said when the charges were refiled.

The new charges and recent arrest of Argueta, who had moved to the Los Angeles area, came as a surprise to his lawyer Peter Santina, who filed the motion to have his client released on his own recognizance.

Santina, the deputy public defender who is representing Argueta, said he was disappointed in the ruling but added that he was glad the bail had been reduced to $800,000 from $2 million.

“The judge was fair in terms of the circumstances and mitigation,” said Santina about the consideration of his motion. “But it’s still difficult. Carlos Argueta is from a working-class family, and I don’t think they will be able to bail him out again.”

Charges have not been refiled against Krummenacher.

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