A gay Castro area business owner said this week that he’s pleased a jury acquitted a man accused of beating him in a February 2011 incident.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s office announced that a jury deliberated one day before acquitting Antonio Herico, 23, of charges including assault Monday, November 5.
In an interview Friday, November 9, Anthony Limitiaco, 50, who owns the Industrialists, 2201 Market Street, said, “If he was acquitted, I think the jury made a good decision. I’ll be honest with you, because what happened here is it wasn’t Mr. Herico’s mouth that was going off, it was his friend’s mouth that was going on.”
The incident started when Herico and Pio Alexander Garcia, 23, were passing the high-end furnishings shop around 3:15 p.m., February 13, 2011, after Herico had apparently gotten drunk on mimosas at the now-shuttered Lime, 2247 Market Street. (A February 2011 Bay Area Reporter story about the case listed Garcia’s name as Alexander Luis Garcia.)
According to a news release from the public defender’s office, Herico threw up in front of the store, directly beneath a sign that said, “Take a dump here you will live but live to regret it.”
The news release says Limitiaco rushed out and yelled profanities at the men. As Herico kept vomiting, Garcia and Limitiaco “engaged in a loud argument, with Garcia hurling anti-gay slurs.”
Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris presented surveillance video at the three-day trial that, according to her office, shows Limitiaco grabbing a metal pole from his store and then swinging at Herico and Garcia as they walked away. He hit Herico on the side of the head, leaving him with a lemon-size hematoma, according to the statement.
Limitiaco said the men hit him, and he asked them to leave. (At first, he also said that both men had called him names, but then said that Herico hadn’t engaged in the name-calling.) Limitiaco said they argued with him, and he went inside the shop to get an electrical pole, which was “too light” to do any damage.
He said one of the men hit him from behind, and he hit Garcia with the pipe.
“[Garcia] was the main one with the mouth, calling me ‘faggot’ and everything. He was the one that started the whole thing,” Limitiaco said.
The B.A.R. viewed the video, which is from inside the store and shows Herico and Garcia walking by. A few moments after they’re out of view, Limitaco leaves the shop, then returns seconds later, retrieves a thin, medium-length pole, and exits again.
Soon, the video, which is silent, shows Limitiaco, empty-handed, running down the street with Herico chasing after and hitting him.
The footage then shows Garcia and Limitiaco entering the store with Garcia striking the shop owner multiple times and Herico entering behind them. After a few moments, Herico breaks items in what authorities describe as an attempt to break the fight, and gets Garcia off of Limitiaco. Garcia returns to grappling with Limitiaco, however, before Herico separates them again after striking the merchant in the head.
According to the public defender’s office, jurors heard a recording of Limitiaco falsely telling a 911 dispatcher that the men had a gun.
Herico and Garcia were charged with assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and burglary, along with hate crime allegations. Herico was also charged with felony vandalism.
Herico’s hate crime and burglary charges were apparently thrown out before trial. He’d faced up to four years in state prison if convicted.
Garcia reached a plea deal with prosecutors last year. His attorney, Jonathan McDougall, didn’t respond to requests for comment late Friday.
In the news release from his office, Public Defender Jeff Adachi credited the surveillance video with Herico’s acquittal, stating that it “proved that Mr. Herico did not assault the shopkeeper. To the contrary, Mr. Herico was trying to be a peacemaker.”
Herico and Garcia couldn’t be reached for comment, but in a February 2011 Facebook post, shortly after he posted bail and was released from jail, Herico said, “What ever y’all might have heard, I love all people, races, genders and all sexual preferences what ever they may be. Were [sic] all children of god.”
Limitiaco, said he’d told the prosecutor, “I want this case to go away. I don’t want any of those young men put in jail. They have a life in front of them. I don’t want to ruin it for them.” He said Herico should have taken the district attorney’s offer of a plea deal, and he expressed concern about the costs of prosecuting the case.
“Who’s paying for that? It’s the city of San Francisco that’s paying for it,” he said.
Limitiaco said he had wanted the men to pay for the damages to merchandise, estimated at about $2,000, but he didn’t want them to have a felony on their record.
“It’s hard enough for them to get a job,” he said. “… You can call me a faggot. I am. That’s not a big deal.” The broken glass wasn’t worth the men’s “shattered lives,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, who prosecuted the case, said in an interview Friday that Herico was “clearly the lightweight” in the incident, and did try to stop the fight. He said that prosecutors had offered to drop the case in exchange for Herico doing community service and paying for damages.
Hwang acknowledged Limitiaco’s not wanting to pursue the case, but said, “I think society has an interest in prosecuting crimes in general, but hate crimes in particular.”