Arraignment continued for suspect in Tower District’s ‘Porchfest’ attack

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The man accused of attacking three Palestine supporters during a Tower District event made his first court appearance on Friday as protesters made a statement outside the courthouse.

A group of protestors gathered outside of the courthouse, waving Pride flags, Palestinian flags, and posters with anti-hate messages.

“Just a group of Fresnans just coming out to say, ‘Hey, we don’t like racism in our town. We don’t stand for hate crimes. It’s not tolerated here.’ We we raise our children here. We raise our children here, we got to remind them how to be mindful and respectful of others and to be tolerant and accepting,” said Lethal Garcia, one of the protestors.

Inside the courthouse, 49-year-old Francisco Samaniego was set to be arraigned on charges from an incident at the PorchFest event in the Tower District on April 27th but that hearing was continued.

Samaniego is accused of attacking three women over their support of Palestine.

Part of the altercation was caught on camera as punches were thrown, and a cell phone was taken.

Initially, Fresno Police arrested Samaniego on a felony robbery charge and misdemeanors for vandalism, battery, and hate crime.

Days later, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama held a press conference addressing the incident.

“There was a lot of profane language used that really focused on their perceived place of birth and who they were supporting. Therefore, this incident was classified as a hate crime,” said Balderrama.

However, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office decided *not* to pursue hate crime charges.

In a statement, the DA’s office said it could not prove Samaniego committed a hate crime since most of his comments were directed at Hamas.

“The derogatory statements that were allegedly made by Samaniego referring to Palestine and Palestinian people, while despicable, are protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution,” the DA’s office wrote in the statement.

Attorney and legal analyst Ralph Torres said he understands arguments for and against including a hate crime charge.

“The issue always is, ‘Can we prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt and should we charge it?” Their decision here based upon what they saw, the relevant evidence, what the people said to law enforcement, this is not the kind of case that they want to present beyond a reasonable doubt,” Torres explained.

Councilmember Annalisa Perea, whose district includes the Tower District, released a statement expressing her disappointment in the charges, which read in part:

“This decision is a missed opportunity to send a strong message to our community that racism and hate will not be tolerated in our city.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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