A San Francisco man was acquitted Tuesday of assault with a deadly weapon and battery in connection with a homeless shelter incident in January, announced the Public Defender's Office.
Gregory Ishengoma, 57, was involved in an altercation with another man Jan. 8 at a Bayview district church that provides shelter and mats for the homeless.
Ishengoma, who had made a reservation to spend the night at the church, had begun to get settled onto his mat when another man approached him angrily and said Ishengoma had taken his spot, said Public Defender's Office spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton. The man then attacked Ishengoma and both men were escorted out of the church.
The two men continued arguing on the street and, as Ishengoma went to walk away, the other man followed him. Ishengoma, afraid of getting beaten again, stabbed the other man in the stomach.
Ishengoma cooperated with police during the investigation and the case was initially discharged by prosecutors, said District Attorney's Office spokesman Alex Bastian.
The victim in the stabbing, after spending two months in the hospital, was "livid that police had not arrested Ishengoma and demanded something be done," Aparton said.
Ishengoma was arrested May 8 after the victim saw him at another shelter.
During the weeklong trial, the victim appeared hostile and admitted that "he was an angry, short-tempered person who had committed violence against women and men alike," Aparton said.
Ishengoma's public defender, Kevin Mitchell, said it was obvious to jurors that Ishengoma was forced to defend himself with the knife, Aparton said.
Due to reasonable doubt, the jury found Ishengoma not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury, Bastian said.
After spending three months in jail, Ishengoma was released Tuesday, Aparton said.
"Mr. Ishengoma, too poor to post $200,000 bail, had to pay with three months of his life before experiencing relief when the jury cleared his good name," Mitchell said.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi applauded the verdict.
"Defending yourself is a right, not a crime," he said. "Mr. Ishengoma had been beaten bloody and followed down the street by his tormentor. He was understandably concerned for his life."
The District Attorney's Office respects the jury's verdict, Bastian said.