A San Francisco man with a long criminal history pleaded not guilty this week to accusations that he threatened a lesbian couple and their daughter at a Mission district bakery.
At the arraignment for Arturo Pleitez, 54, in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday, July 31, Assistant District Attorney Karen Catalona called him “an extreme public safety threat” and “a notorious bully.”
Through Deputy Public Defender Michelle Tong, Pleitez pleaded not guilty to three felony charges of making criminal threats. Two of the counts are being charged as hate crimes.
Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said in an interview that the incident occurred Monday, July 28, at Arizmendi Bakery, 1268 Valencia Street. Pleitez allegedly “ran up on” the family, threatened them, and “made disparaging remarks about the victims’ sexual orientation.” Bastian declined to specify what comments Pleitez allegedly made, and he didn’t know the victims’ ages.
Catalona said in court Thursday that Pleitez “targeted two woman because of their sexual orientation and terrorized them in front of their 2-year-old child,” and if someone else hadn’t intervened, the case could have been even more serious.
Catalona said Pleitez is “such a notorious bully” that the San Francisco Examiner wrote about him almost four years ago.
She said he’s had 71 felony contacts and 174 misdemeanor contacts. (There may be multiple contacts for a single arrest.)
While discussing Tong’s request that Pleitez be released on his own recognizance, Judge Tracie Brown said that his rap sheet was “too big for transmission” and she was only able to view his previous cases up through 2007. She also expressed concern about the “nature of the allegations” in the current case.
Tong said that Pleitez had “many, many arrests” with “no convictions.”
She said he also has a probation case from about a month and a half ago for misdemeanor driving under the influence, and another probation case for misdemeanor disturbing the peace.
She acknowledged the nature of the current charges but said, “Nevertheless, they’re words,” and she said although “some of the words” are “offensive,” they don’t amount to criminal threats. Tong also said it had been clear that Pleitez “was probably under the influence” during the incident, saying that his speech had not been clear. She said her client didn’t appear to have any outstanding bench warrants.
Brown grew irritated, saying, “I saw numerous bench warrants,” plus “at least” four felony convictions and three misdemeanor batteries.
“That is of concern to me,” Brown said.
Catalona said Pleitez is “well known on 24th Street,” and many in the neighborhood “are afraid of him.” Catalona said he’d recently followed a 92-year-old woman.
Court records show problems that other people say they’ve had with Pleitez.
In a request for a restraining order filed in October, a 42-year-old man who lived with his family on the 1300 block of South Van Ness Street wrote that in July, Pleitez “showed up in front of my house, on top of the stars where there was no light. He scared my family and I because he was hiding and once he saw me he told me what he always tells my family and I. that we should leave the neighborhood because we’re Indians and that he is going to kill us.” The man wrote his 3-year-old son “is beginning to get scared.”
A judge eventually granted the order, which is set to expire in December 2016.
“I’m not afraid he’s going to go anywhere,” because he never leaves 24th Street, Catalona said in court Thursday.
“My concern is he’s an extreme public safety threat,” she said, adding that he has two prior state prison sentences.
Pleitez appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. Brown denied the request for his release and set his bail at $150,000. His next court dates are for a pre-hearing conference August 6 and a preliminary hearing August 11.