It is not often charges will be dropped midtrial — and even less often that a jury will applaud and offer to write letters to try to help the accused retrieve their job.
But that is what happened in a felony domestic violence case in San Francisco Superior Court this week when prosecutors gave up on the case after the alleged victim kept switching her story on the stand, the Public Defender’s Office announced Thursday.
The San Francisco man, 24-year-old kitchen manager Francisco Garcia, was accused by his former girlfriend of smashing her head into a wall multiple times and threatening to kill her and their toddler.
But Garcia said the woman only made the allegations after he told her he would go to court for a custody arrangement for their child. She took the news poorly and told him things were going to “get really bad for him,” Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt said in a news release.
Within days, she filed a report, and though there was no evidence of the alleged injuries, Garcia — a legal resident with no criminal history — was arrested, lost his job and was limited to just one hour a week with his daughter, Quandt said. If convicted, he could have faced five years in prison and deportation.
However, when the trial began, his accuser balked, providing conflicting answers about her name and details of the alleged attack. She said she had no contact with Garcia after the attack, but phone records indicated she actually called him 100 times the day before filing the report.
On Wednesday, almost two weeks after the trial began, the assistant district attorney motioned to dismiss the case.
Erica Derryck, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said in the pretrial and preliminary hearings there appeared to be enough evidence to pursue the case. However, midway through the trial, the prosecutor “developed her own concerns about the credibility of that witness.”
“She didn’t hesitate,” Derryck said. “She followed her ethical obligation and she moved for an immediate dismissal.”
After the case was dismissed, jurors clapped and offered to write letters to help Garcia return to his job, Quandt said.