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Jury weighs fate of homeless man charged in beating of ex-San Francisco official

Two people stand near the entrance of a courtroom, one wearing a mask, with signage above and beside them.
Garrett Doty stands near a courtroom in the Hall of Justice on May 23. His trial is about to finish. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

The blows captured on video were hard to watch.

Garrett Doty, a young homeless man, chased Don Carmignani around with a metal rod and repeatedly struck him over the head.

The impacts were devastating. Carmignani, a San Francisco native who briefly served on the Fire Commission, suffered a broken jaw, fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury. His face was bloodied by the beating.

But whether Doty carried out the attack in self-defense is now up to a jury to decide after his trial wrapped up Tuesday at the Hall of Justice.

Doty, 25, is facing three counts of assault and battery-related charges over the beating, which occurred April 5 when Carmignani, 54, confronted Doty for camping outside his home in the Marina District and demanded he leave.

Don Carmignani stands in the hallway at the Hall of Justice.
Don Carmignani stands in the hallway at the Hall of Justice. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

During his closing argument Tuesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Kourtney Bell acknowledged that Carmignani instigated the attack by spraying Doty with some sort of pepper spray and threatening to stab him. 

But Bell argued that Doty went beyond self-defense when he hit Carmignani over the head again and again with the metal pipe, especially by the end of the encounter, when Carmignani was bloodied and running away.

Bell said that Doty knew “exactly what he was doing” when he pulled the pipe out of a trash can, swung it around and later chased Carmignani with it. He said Doty made “strategic movements” to decide how to strike Carmignani.

“He’s humiliating him,” Bell told the jury. “He is exacting his revenge at this point for being sprayed earlier. He is toying with him.”

Bell called the final strike by Doty, which occurred after Carmignani retreated, a “textbook assault.”

But during her closing argument, Doty’s attorney Kleigh Hathaway said Bell failed to prove Doty was not acting out of fear when he struck Carmignani repeatedly.

“You just got sprayed by someone, and you are chasing them because you have no idea what they are going to do,” Hathaway said. “You don’t have a home, you don’t have a phone and you are fighting because you are afraid.”

A large part of Hathaway's case was attacking Carmignani's character.

Earlier in the trial, Hathaway called Carmignani’s ex-wife, Yvette Corkrean, to the stand to testify about how she had reported Carmignani to police in 2013 for allegedly abusing her on multiple occasions, including by striking her face.

Hathaway also previously told the jury about a series of bear or pepper spray attacks on homeless people in the area, and showed them video from a November 2021 spray attack that she claims was carried out by Carmignani.

On Tuesday, she argued that Carmignani was a “vicious vigilante who preys on the weak and vulnerable."

“Finally someone did eventually fight back,” Hathaway said. “Unfortunately, that was Mr. Doty.”

She also strongly suggested that Carmignani was intoxicated the day he confronted Doty and painted him as someone who became violent when he drank.

“There are the mean drunks, the fun drunks and then you have Mr. Carmignani," Hathaway said.

But Bell chalked up the defense's arguments to "a whole bunch of distractions" meant to "dirty up" Carmignani. While he acknowledged that Carmignani spraying Doty was "not okay," Bell said the attack was was "a straight up assault."

"It was revenge," he said. "It was humiliation."

The case, Bell said, was proven by video evidence.

The jury left the courtroom to begin deliberating late Tuesday afternoon.

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