DA may drop charges in violent attack on former SF fire commissioner

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After new revelations came to light following a violent attack in the Marina District on former San Francisco Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani earlier this month, the city’s public defender’s office is seeking to drop the charges against the unhoused suspect. 

This comes after a Wednesday hearing for the case, which requires Carmignani’s testimony, but he didn’t attend, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said in a Wednesday statement.

Prosecutors allege that Garrett Doty, 24, beat Carmignani with a metal pipe just after 7 p.m. on April 5, causing severe injuries, including a cracked skull and broken jaw.

Doty was charged with three felonies: assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with serious bodily injury and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced April 10.

Doty’s attorney, Katherine Kleigh Hathaway, told SFGATE on April 10 that she believes Doty acted in self-defense after Carmignani allegedly came out of a house and pepper-sprayed her client. 

Attorneys from the San Francisco public defender’s office, who represent Doty, said the DA’s office turned over evidence Tuesday that indicates Carmignani allegedly instigated the altercation. 

“When I first spoke with you all [the media], I said this was going to be a case of self-defense, and that was before we knew much of what we have learned in the last 24 hours,” Hathaway said in a CBS interview following the Wednesday hearing. 

The public defender’s office said that in a video of the April 5 incident, Carmignani is seen approaching Doty with pepper spray, and a subsequent argument between the two ensued. A witness said Carmignani allegedly threatened to stab and kill Doty if he didn’t leave the area, the office said. Prosecutors turned over this evidence because they considered it relevant to the circumstances involving Doty, the office said.

The public defender’s office said it believes this is one of eight incidents since 2021 where Carmignani may have allegedly used bear or pepper spray against unhoused people in the Cow Hollow and Marina neighborhoods. 

In these eight reported incidents, a man who the public defender’s office alleged fits the physical description of Carmignani approached unhoused individuals and sprayed them with pepper or bear spray.

In one incident, a November 2021 video turned over to the public defender’s office shows someone approaching a sleeping unhoused man and subsequently pepper spraying him intensely in the face. The public defender’s office said prosecutors believe the assailant may be Carmignani. 

In Carmignani’s first public interview since the April 5 incident, released Wednesday, he told CBS that he was at his mother’s house on April 5 when she alerted him of three individuals leaning against her door, “smoking crack cocaine.” He said the individuals were allegedly blocking the house and there had been multiple confrontations in the past with at least two of them. 

Carmignani said the individuals were fighting later that day, and he asked them to leave. Carmignani said the individuals began shouting at him, and he deployed pepper spray but accidentally sprayed himself. Carmignani said the next thing he remembers is being assaulted.

Carmignani told CBS that he was disappointed when he learned that the DA’s office said the charges against Doty may be dropped.

“My city is in chaos,” he said in the CBS interview.

The DA’s office requested to continue the case until Thursday for a hearing and contacted Carmignani’s attorneys to see if he could attend, the office said. 

The DA’s office said Carmignani didn’t respond after being contacted by the San Francisco Police Department for multiple interviews, despite his participation in the CBS interview in which he recounts the attack. 

If Carmignani is unable to testify in court Thursday, the DA’s office said it will continue the case at a later time when he can attend, and Doty will be released. 

Doty has remained in custody at San Francisco County Jail since the early morning of April 6, according to jail records.

If convicted of all charges, Doty faces seven years in prison, according to the DA’s office. 

“We will do everything in our power, and as allowed by the law, to ensure Mr. Doty faces consequences for this violent attack,” the DA’s office said in the Wednesday statement. 

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