Maybe there’s hope for San Francisco. There was outrage a couple of weeks ago when a drug-addled homeless man ranting about killer robots violently attacked a woman outside her apartment. The outrage wasn’t just over the attack but over the fact that a San Francisco judge put the attacker in a pretrial diversion program which allowed him back on the streets. After a backlash, the judge reconsidered and decided the accused would need to have an anchor monitor until his trial. But even as the system was struggling to catch up, Austin James Vincent was accused of involvement in another previous attack involving a knife. So Vincent was sent to jail to await his trial.
This week, Vincent’s attorney went before another judge and successfully demonstrated that he couldn’t have been involved in that prior attack, which happened in February, because at the time he was in a drug treatment facility in Huntington Beach, CA. So the second set of charges were dropped. At that point, the question became: Will the judge allow Vincent to go free (with his anchor monitor) or will he keep him in jail?
Assistant District Attorney Melody Bahai, who sought to keep Vincent in custody, called the attack “unprovoked and completely random.” Bahai then read a letter from Kosarian, in which she said although she wanted to be in court Thursday, she was still recovering from the attack and couldn’t “look her attacker in the eye.”
Kosarian, an immigrant from Iran, said because of the attack, she was afraid to leave her apartment and has nightmares.
“Now, I am scared and feel like I don’t have a voice. This city has abandoned me,” the letter read. “My life will never be the same.”
[Judge] Moody cited a previous menacing charge involving a weapon from New York and remanded him into custody without bail.
Several things to note about this. First, the prosecutors took some appropriate heat for their lackadaisical approach in the initial hearing, failing to even mention the video of the attack which eventually convinced the previous judge to add an ankle monitor. But it seems that this time around the prosecutors had their act together with the victim statement.
Second, the new judge didn’t fall for the defense attorney’s claims that Vincent could only receive appropriate treatment for his drug abuse outside of jail. The judge told his attorneys there were plenty of treatment options available in jail adding, “This is not some medieval system. This is San Francisco.” There’s an implied rebuke in that statement to fellow judge Christine Van Aken who used drug treatment as a basis to release Vincent.
Third, though Vincent wasn’t involved in the February attack, he was involved in some previous incident in New York which sounds similar. That also means some other random nutcase was menacing a group of women in San Francisco back in February.
The attack on Paneez Kosarian wasn’t the only high-profile attack making news in the city. Last week a homeless man put a restaurant owner in a chokehold. Bystanders stood around and did nothing. When the man’s 13-year-old son came to help, the bystanders told him not to do anything too. That sounds more like San Francisco to me. Fortunately, the 13-year-old had more sense than most of the adults (and some judges).