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Don Carmignani’s ex-wife testifies about abuse in San Francisco trial of his attacker

Fomer SFFD Commissioner Don Carmignani, wearing a face mask, walks through the hallways of the Hall of Justice in San Francisco.
Don Carmignani showed up at court for the trial of his attacker, Garrett Doty, but is no longer expected to testify in the case. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Hoping to bolster a self-defense plea, attorneys for a homeless man who beat a former San Francisco official with a metal pipe called the victim’s ex-wife to the witness stand Wednesday to testify about prior domestic violence.

Yvette Corkrean testified that she reported her ex-husband, Don Carmignani, to the police in 2013 for multiple incidents of domestic violence, including one in which she said he twisted her arm in an unprovoked attack. During her testimony, Corkrean was shown a text message she sent to her friend at the time.

“If I end up dead tomorrow, you know it was my drunk ass husband,” she wrote.

Corkrean, who is running as a Republican against California state Sen. Scott Wiener next March, was called to the stand by the defense in the trial of 25-year-old Garrett Doty, who is facing assault and battery charges for repeatedly striking Carmignani with a metal pipe during a fight in April.

Corkrean's testimony could help bolster the defense's argument that Doty beat Carmignani, a San Francisco native who briefly served on the Fire Commission, in self-defense. An earlier witness in the trial testified that they saw Carmignani confront Doty and another homeless man for camping outside his home in the Marina District. The witness said Carmignani threatened to stab Doty and sprayed the men with what looked like a can of Mace, a brand name for pepper spray.

Garret Doty walks down the steps outside the Hall of Justice.
Garrett Doty leaves the Hall of Justice. He is accused of assaulting Don Carmignani. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Doty's public defender, Kleigh Hathaway, argues that Carmignani was behind a series of bear or pepper spray attacks on homeless people in or around the Marina District leading up to the fight with Doty—a claim that Carmignani has repeatedly denied through his attorneys. While prosecutors argue that Doty struck Carmignani out of revenge, Hathaway alleges that Doty beat him because he thought he was being targeted by the vigilante.

Doty has not taken the stand. While prosecutors subpoenaed Carmignani to testify, they unexpectedly turned him away when he showed up to court.

Corkrean, wearing a light blue jacket and black skirt, was in tears as she took the stand. Corkrean said she had tried hard to forget the abuse and could not recall specifics about what happened to her. 

"I've buried that,” she said.

A woman, Yvette Corkrean, left, and a man, her attorney walk through the hallways of the Hall of Justice at Superior Court with people in the the background.
Yvette Corkrean, left, Don Carmignani's ex-wife, and her attorney walk through the Hall of Justice at Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday. Corkrean was called by the defense to testify in the Garrett Doty trial. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Corkrean acknowledged talking to the police and said her statements were accurate. She reported that Carmignani once twisted her arm, pulled her by the hair at a bar in Placerville on a different occasion and struck her in the face after coming from a San Francisco Giants Opening Day game.

“I put that all behind me,” Corkrean said. “If that’s what it says, that’s what it says. I don’t remember the specifics.”

But when asked by the prosecutor on the case, Kourtney Bell, if Carmignani was the same person he was a decade ago, Corkrean said he wasn’t.

“We had a very contentious end of our relationship,” she said. “I think that was a short time and we have grown past that and are in a different place now.

“In his personal life, I don't know what he does,” she added. “But when it comes to raising our children, we are doing the best that we can.”

Carmignani was arrested in connection with the incidents, which led to his resignation from the Fire Commission just months after his appointment by Mayor Ed Lee, according to media reports from the time. Court records show he later resolved the case by pleading no contest in 2015 to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Corkrean's testimony came after Hathaway showed her mother, Linda Groen, a video of a spray attack from November 2021 and asked her to identify the man seen in the recording spraying a sleeping homeless person in the face.

Groen did not want to testify and said she was subpoenaed.

But based on the man’s walk, stature and the location of the attack—just a few houses down from where Carmignani lives—Groen said that the perpetrator seemed to be Carmignani.

“I can’t say for sure,” she said. “It looks like Don.”

Correction: This story was updated with the proper spelling of Garrett Doty’s name.

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com