A man who allegedly beat former San Francisco fire commissioner Don Carmignani with a metal rod will be released from jail on Thursday while awaiting trial after the ex-official didn’t show up to court to testify against him.
Judge Loretta Giorgi ordered the release of Garret Doty, 24, because Carmignani said injuries he suffered in the April attack outside his mother's house prevented him from coming to court and taking the stand. Prosecutors said they would have trouble proving the case without Carmignani testifying against Doty.
Michelle Brass, an assistant district attorney, told the court her office subpoenaed Carmignani, but he could not come to court because he is on pain medication and suffered a broken jaw in the attack. While he did an interview with the press on Tuesday, she said he spoke to the media from his home.
"He is unable to be in court today to testify based on the severity of his injuries," Brass said.
The news comes a day after a major twist in the nationally watched case.
Doty's lawyer, Kleigh Hathaway, said Carmignani matched the description of an unidentified suspect who bear-sprayed homeless people in eight different incidents near his mother's house spanning from late 2021 until this January.
Video first reported by The Standard shows a man—who Hathaway says appears to be Carmignani—casually spraying a homeless man in the face in the earliest incident on Magnolia Street from November 2021.
An attorney for Carmignani, Nick Colla, said his client was not the person who sprayed the homeless people in the other attacks.
Doty will be released under minimal supervision and must keep away from Carmignani as well as Magnolia Street, where the attack occurred, the judge ruled. Giorgi ordered him to return to court May 23 for his preliminary hearing, where the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Hathaway argued that the assault and battery charges against Doty should be dropped as soon as possible because she doubts Carmignani will ever testify given the new revelations about the earlier attacks on homeless people.
Her office has accused Carmignani of instigating the April 5 attack by walking up to Doty with bear spray. She said video shows her client skittering away from Carmignani at the beginning of the April 5 incident "because he knows Mr. Carmignani has a pattern of spraying and assaulting homeless people.
"That's the fear that my client had in coming into this entire assault," Hathaway told reporters outside the courtroom.
But Colla, Carmignani's attorney, said videos of the attack "speak for themselves."
"My client was repeatedly beaten with a metal rod while in the act of retreating a distance spanning nearly two city blocks from the initial point of contact with the defendant," Colla said in a statement.
Colla said Carmignani is recovering from an "invasive surgery to remove part of his skull following the defendant's brutal attack on him."
"To suggest that the brief interview he gave a reporter from the comfort of his living room is evidence that he's healthy enough to appear in court, and face the media circus surrounding this case, is preposterous," he said.
Carmignani, 52, sat down Tuesday for an interview with CBS News. He told the station that he suffered a broken jaw. A bandage could be seen on the upper part of his skull.
“I’m happy if I get two hours a sleep a night,” said Carmignani, adding that he was taking “oxy” and had “short-term memory loss.”
In the interview, Carmignani expressed frustration with San Francisco leaders and “animals in the street."
“My city is in chaos,” he said, adding, “the city is burning.”
He said prior to the confrontation with Doty, three people had been “smoking crack cocaine” outside his mother’s front door and her calls to 911 had gone unanswered.
He acknowledged that he had confrontations “on a regular basis” with several homeless individuals.
Doty will likely be released from jail Thursday afternoon or later.
Michael Barba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org