Citing a lack of evidence, a San Francisco judge on Wednesday dismissed all felony charges against the two men charged in a 2006-’07 New Year’s assault against members of the Baker’s Dozen a cappella group, news sources reported last night.
After three days of testimony, San Francisco Judge Kathleen Kelly ruled that contradictory accounts of the fight made it impossible to link Brian Dwyer, 20, and Richard Aicardi, 20, to the specific attacks in question. All charges against Dwyer were dismissed, while the charges against Aicardi were reduced to a single misdemeanor assault count. Both men could have faced prison time if they had been convicted of the original charges.
Aicardi had been charged with two counts of assault and one count of battery against Evan Gogel ’10 and William “Hyatt” Bailey ’10, while Dwyer faced only one count each of assault and battery against Gogel.
The charges stemmed from a fight that broke out after a party during the BDs’ West Coast tour last winter break. During the brawl, Bailey was punched in the face by an assailant and Gogel suffered a concussion from allegedly being kicked as he lay on the ground.
Both Gogel and Bailey were in San Francisco for the hearings this week.
In announcing her ruling, Kelly said she is “very, very disturbed” by the victims’ accounts and was “particularly disturbed to hear of the injuries Mr. Gogel suffered,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.
But, she added, differing accounts of who specifically attacked whom, coupled with evidence that Dwyer, who was detained at the scene by police, could not have been one of Gogel’s attackers, led her to drop the charges, according to the Chronicle.
Dwyer had admitted to police that he had intentionally kicked “someone” that night, but he never admitted to kicking Gogel.
The abrupt end follows months of discussion involving the BDs, lawyers and the San Francisco District Attorney’s office over the direction of the prosecution. After the alleged assault, District Attorney Kamala Harris faced accusations that the prosecution was not aggressive enough in prosecuting the young men, recent high-school graduates from the wealthy Richmond District of San Francisco.
According to testimony on Tuesday by police inspector John Newman, the fight began after a member of the a cappella group kissed a local attendee and another tried to take a can of beer. Tensions soon arose between some of the local party-goers and the Yalies.
The singers were later attacked outside the party — which was being held in the group’s honor — although to what extent the fight was one-sided has remained a major point of contention.
Following the hearing’s conclusion Wednesday, Aicardi’s lawyer Jim Collins — who had previously called the BDs “no angels” — said he was happy with the decision.
“I think people had a wrong impression of what happened out there,” Collins said outside the courtroom, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Now you see what really happened — a simple assault.”
The prosecution maintained Wednesday that the attack was completely one-sided.
Assistant District Attorney Rick Forman said after the hearing that he is “very disappointed” that the “brutal attack” on Gogel was “going unpunished,” the Mercury News reported.
Gogel and Bailey did not respond to e-mail request for comment Wednesday evening. Whitney Leigh, one of the attorneys representing the BDs could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Sharyar Aziz ’10, who had his jaw broken after being punched and kicked while on the ground — the most serious injuries sustained by anyone — is seeking restitution in civil court after the District Attorney’s office decided last March that there was not enough evidence to charge anyone in his attack. Both Dwyer and Aicardi are included in the suit.
Aicardi is next set to appear in court over his remaining misdemeanor charge May 7.