Free Austin Sarna

February 1, 2013

Austin SarnaOPINION By TERRY MOHAN

Austin Sarna, the Good Samaritan transient, who interceded on an assault by several local drunks on a passing motorist in January 2012, has decided to refuse a plea bargain offered by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office.

The deal would have put a strike on Austin’s record, for the California Three Strike law, and would have seen him serve as much as two years in jail for stepping up to help the victim of a crime. He has been incarcerated in the SLO county jail since September on the unimaginable bail of $500,000.

The District Attorney’s office has an extremely weak case with “victims” claiming amnesia about the whole incident, witness accounts of the “victims” beating Austin and “victims” who were so intoxicated they were kicking dogs, falling in the street and generally throwing their weight around as they staggered back to their vehicle.

They were looking for anyone to challenge them, as drunks usually do, and were stupid enough to attack someone who they knew had a knife, for protection against just such thugs. The wounds sustained by the “victims” were minor except a wound to the artery in one “victims” arm, which subsequently stopped the assault. This injury was probably caused by Austin defending himself and the “victim” flailing his arms while punching at Austin’s head.

The DA seems to have been intimidated into pursuing these charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon by the influential parents of the “victims” as it took almost nine months to make an arrest. After reviewing the witness statements taken after the incident and a comment made by one of the “victims” the only conclusion to be drawn is the DA’s case rests solely on the impression of an armed homeless transient against innocent upstanding local youths. (aka the drunken, belligerent “victims”).

So as a county taxpayer I will again be writing to the DA questioning his competence on pursuing such a weak case after not long ago failing to convince a jury that belligerent drunks do not make credible “victims.” Austin comes up for another bail hearing on Feb. 5 so if you don’t want to see an additional ten of thousands of county tax dollars wasted on this case take a few minutes and write a letter to the DA asking him to drop this case all together. It will make you feel good encouraging justice to set an innocent man free to return to his fiancée and newborn baby

Terry Mohan is a San Luis Obispo resident who after hearing about this case went to the Superior Court and reviewed the initial witness statements and part of the testimony of the first hearing.

 


38 Comments

  1. revealtruth says:

    I have been following this case for awhile and I think it is great that Austin has so much support….turns out this “transient” isn’t going to be that easy to “pin” this on after all…oops, you picked on someone with brains, a support system, and Faith….Charges really should be dropped now….let him get home to his family and new baby and be a father and husband…and get back to his job!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  2. ReelView says:

    If Fred Foss is that poor kids defender, he’s as good as ***ked! Pardon me, but I’ve been around here for a very long time!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. bobfromsanluis says:

    As more cases in San Luis Obispo come to the light of public scrutiny, our District Attorney’s office looks more and more like some sort of cruel joke when discussing “justice”. Kelly Gearhart (and friends) screws seniors citizens, retirees, pensioners and others looking for a better than average investment return, and what does our DA’s office do? Sit on their hands.
    This case, like others in recent memory, show the true incompetence of our our DA “works”. The assertions that the so-called “victims” pushed to have this case prosecuted would seem to be very close to the truth of the matter. The fact that the young man accused happens to be A.) homeless, B.) marked with tattoos on his neck, C.) armed with a knife, and D.) someone who actually stood up to a group of drunken bullies who seemed to be hell-bent on beating someone up that night, all work to give the DA the idea that he is someone they can “make an example of”. This whole case makes me sick; if the DA wants to do anything other than let this young man go by dismissing all of the charges, they should forward it to the Grand Jury and have them call forward all of the witnesses and quiz them under oath; I think then all of the facts can come out, justice could be served, and possibly some of those young men who were drunk that night could have to face charges of their own. Mr. Shea, drop this case, now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

    • bobfromsanluis says:

      um, that second paragraph should start out …, show the true incompetence of how our DA …

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Mr. Holly says:

      I like your idea about sending it to the Grand Jury. The only problem with that is that the Grand Jury in this county does NOT investigate any major criminal activities. Maybe its time that a Grand Jury is formed to really investigate ALL of the criminal activities that are occurring in this county and which appear to be not prosecuted by the current DA. Or elect a DA that will actually do his job.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

      • bobfromsanluis says:

        “Or elect a DA that will actually do his job.” BINGO!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

        • Cindy says:

          bob and Mr Holly, I couldn’t agree with the two of you more.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. Randy Sheila says:

    Have y’all forgotten where you are? A land of yesterday where racist jokes get told at public gatherings, sheriffs deputies kick ass as it suits them and the good-old-boy network still rules the streets. These drunk young men are related to some of A-town’s “connected” -think land development, City politics, CIF athletic championship, etc. You can’t just arrest connected and powerful people, even though they broke the law… Yain’t from ’round here, are ya?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

    • obispan says:

      The economic engine of SLO’s bar-cartel is relieving these well-connected young gentlemen of hundreds of dollars a night in SLO’s alcohol-Disneyland. Everybody knows this, and the associated costs, which the citizens pay for, not the bar owners. This incident is just one of those costs, and not a unique occurrence. Santa Barbara, baby. Why do you think we pay $300,000/yr to a city manager who lives in Malibu? Why is Paul Brown going to be your next councilman?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • Mr. Holly says:

      Welcome to SLO. The parents of one of the drunks, Lerno, were business partners with Kelly Gearhart.
      Mr, Lerno had to step down from the ATown City Council after having been caught with illegal dealings with Gearhart. Now maybe that will help you understand how “prominent” law breakers are handled in SLO.
      By the way, whatever happened to Kelly Gearhart?’

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

    • obispan says:

      My point is, why should the well-connected drunk young men from A-Town be treated differently from the well-connected young men we import to SLO from Danville, Los Altos, the well-healed of the San Joaguin Valley, Thousand Oaks, Rancho-anything, Laguna-anything, San-anything? This is how we roll!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

    • obispan says:

      Ya may not be able to control them 100%, but if you can forbid them from getting neck tattoos, even after they’re 18, you’re a 90%+ parent today. And the 9 months wait for arrest? Is that not how long it took police to find him? I want to know if these guys were randomly attacking drivers Rodney-King-riot-style and kicking dogs (whose dogs? stray dogs?) and this Sarna-guy was homeless-Superman or was it just another nasty downtown fight. The SLOFD used to wash down Paul Brown’s sidewalk routinely after these occurrences, which add to the excitement, appeal, and profitability of downtown SLO.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  5. catsdad says:

    To follow this case check out, https://www.facebook.com/FreeAustinSarna?ref=stream. Join the social media push to help free Austin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

  6. obispan says:

    You’d think Rizzo and Jenkins would be all over this one – oh, whoops – no REAL money (hundreds of thousands) in it. Just a few weeks of contract public defender wages.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 13

    • kettle says:

      Insulting people by name from behind you anonymous mask.

      How brave of you, your obviously a better lawyer what with your Harvard degree and all.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

      • obispan says:

        No Harvard degree. Maybe you came to that conclusion because I know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. These lawyers trying to destroy our quality of life are the ones who encourage the problem, cash the checks, and put their names in the paper, not me.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  7. abigchocoholic says:

    You seriously want me to decide a case based on a one page summary, one sided version of a potentially deadly incident? How can I possibly do that? Of course, based on just this article it seems that the armed transient is not only innocent but also a hero—- but is this really all there is to it? There is no other side to the story or facts that contradict this summary? The DA is just a dummy who’s going to lose and doesn’t know right from wrong? Do you really want me to believe that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

      • Stunned says:

        Great links gardenslo. I think he’s guilty of assault with a deadly weapon which should immediately be dropped and those punks need to be hauled in and held accountable!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

      • SloTownMan says:

        Do you truly believe anythilng that is written in New Times…… omg.. call a shrink for this poor lost soul now.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 14

      • abigchocoholic says:

        You still don’t get it. It’s five more of the exact same thing. If this guy didn’t nothing but defend someone getting beat by a group of men and then defended himself getting beat by multiple people, there would be no case against him and he would have won at his preliminary hearing and the case would be over.

        Just for example, if one of the victims really did have a full mount on this guy and was beating him about the face, it’s a completely unnatural reaction to reach around and superficially stab the victim in the back–the natural reaction– if your hands are free when someone has a full mount on you which is kind of difficult to picture— would either be to protect your head or stab what’s in front of you or to try and roll over to protect you face. Just taking it on the chin when you have a free hand and using that free hand to go all the way around the back and hold on to a knife and use that knife on the back is a pretty unusual reaction to say the least. I’m not saying it can’t happen, I’m just saying it doesn’t come across as the most likely of things.

        Now the fact that he didn’t win at his preliminary hearing and the case is set for trial means there’s another version of the incident that you are not telling us. So at least have the journalistic integrity to mention the other side of the story–the one that the DA put on at the preliminary hearing and the one that the Judge found convincing enough to hold the guy over for trial.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

        • catsdad says:

          You seem to have an overly naive view of how the legal system works. If charges are brought against you the DA and judge do not make mistakes so you must be guilty of something.

          Perhaps the victim was stabbed in the back as he attempted to take down Austin in the wrestling move of going for the legs as he did when he took down the motorist that the victim was previously assaulting. If Austin was truly trying to murder the victim why not lunge the knife in his back or better yet in the front of his torso where all the vital organs are? (This is the definition of Attempted Murder) Why cut the arm and maybe hit an artery? If Austin was the aggressor in the incident why did he let the victim walk away when he finally retreated after his arm was cut and all his friends were running away? This would have been the opportune time to finish the victim off. Instead he dropped his knife and left.
          We can’t ask the victim because he conveniently has amnesia about the whole incident and his friends have all different versions of what happened, to protect themselves.

          The other side of the story is that there is a knife with the victims blood and Austin’s DNA on it. Some influential drunks got hurt and someone has to pay. Who could ask for a better scape goat than a homeless transient.
          This is just a waste of taxpayer money.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

          • abigchocoholic says:

            all speculation and no facts. Anyone can sit there and say the victims are connected blah, blah, blah but this isn’t about the victims as they aren’t even being charged. This is about a transient. What happens to the transient in no way affects these alleged connected victims.

            And out of one side of your nutcase mouths you people complain when Judge Crandall gives the homeless a victory at a cost of 133k to the city and now out of the other side your mouths you complain that the homeless can find no justice in this good ole boy network.

            So basically the only thing you people know is how to complain. In your minds, every direction points to injustice —key words “in your minds” .

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

            • catsdad says:

              A mind is a terrible thing to waste and ignorance is the biggest mind waster.
              All the above facts are in the record. How the victims are connected has already been published. This incarceration has already cost the taxpayers around twenty thousand dollars, considering the average cost of keeping someone in county jail, it’s in the record. This is not including the cost to the DA’s office and the cost to retrieve Austin from Vallejo. With a trial and further incarceration we will be closing on a hundred grand.
              Revenge is the motive of the victims and their pride at being beaten by a homeless person also affect their pursuing this case.
              Judge Crandall handed out justice and that is what we are looking for for Austin.
              The only thing I am complaining about is you don’t know what your talking about.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

            • gardenslo says:

              again at abigchocoholic

              What happens to this transient – who, by the way, at the time of his arrest was no longer a transient, was employed, and has a family – absolutely affects the “alleged connected victims” as there was a crime committed that night that led up to the stabbing. It was this group of drunk wanna-be thugs (“alleged connected victims”) that went around harassing and attacking random people for no reason at all.
              If you think that Sarna’s arrest and the fact that the original story only mentions a group a men just casually walking to their car wasn’t to distract from what actually happened that night, you are denser than I originally suspected.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

          • obispan says:

            I walk downtown at night and pass a lot of obnoxious drunks, the only ones I stay aware of for safety are the homeless. I think I could accidentally bump into a drunk frat boy or one of these A-Town jocks and not have a problem. If there were I would take it up with their dad. Do we have this option with the homeless?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

            • catsdad says:

              It must be satisfying to be able to distinguish the homeless, aka dangerous drunks, from the fun loving non belligerent jocks. Your going to go to some 27 year old’s Dad and tell he beat you up in downtown SLO. Really?
              What century are you living in?

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

              • obispan says:

                The fun-loving belligerent jocks usually get into fights with their own kind. I’ve seen it downtown since the 70’s. Have you? No. You move here and decide how it should be. Let it go to trial. I don’t buy your premise that the DA is Gearhart’s (???) buddies’ vindictive stooge.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

                • catsdad says:

                  They didn’t fight their own kind on this night. Go ask the passing motorist they assaulted. I personally don’t care how long you’ve lived here you obviously have no respect for the community if you condone drunks ruining our downtown whether they are fighting among themselves or not.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

        • gardenslo says:

          I can only continue to state the obvious for you for so long before it starts to get annoying. In a preliminary hearing, the DA only has to prove probable cause and in this case they have a knife with Sarna’s DNA. At the preliminary, DA Cunningham said that there were obvious self-defense elements in this case, but asked the judge to let a jury sort that out. Feel free to waltz on down to the court house and check out the preliminary transcript for yourself.

          I can’t really comment on your second paragraph because its all speculation and no facts.

          And finally, there is another version of the incident. Its the one that came out in September when Sarna was arrested. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but aside from having seen the original version of the story when he Sarna was arrested in September, having an article titled “More to the story?” that ran in December (almost 3 months after Sarna’s arrest) is the other obvious clue that this isn’t the first version of what happened that night.
          And again, feel free to verify the actual facts about this case for yourself.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

          • abigchocoholic says:

            “I can only continue to state the obvious for you for so long before it starts to get annoying. In a preliminary hearing, the DA only has to prove probable cause and in this case they have a knife with Sarna’s DNA.”
            ——————–
            DNA on a knife does not constitute probable cause by itself. If every witness testified that the transient was defending himself with a knife against a group of men attacking him, probable cause does not exist as a matter of law. Period. No probable cause, case over as a matter of law. What the author of the story left out was the eye witness testimony and other statements in the preliminary hearing that lead to a finding of probable cause. And that is why I said, and have to say again against obviously deaf ears, that you people are only telling one side of a story.

            “At the preliminary, DA Cunningham said that there were obvious self-defense elements in this case, but asked the judge to let a jury sort that out. Feel free to waltz on down to the court house and check out the preliminary transcript for yourself.”
            ——————-
            Let the jury sort out a factual dispute? That’s funny. Isn’t that exactly my point? What factual dispute? Here you are basically admitting there is another side to the story and that it will not be divulged here and that it is up to the reader to go down to the courthouse and read the transcript to get a balanced viewpoint. I rest my case.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

            • gardenslo says:

              “Here you are basically admitting… that it is up to the reader to go down to the courthouse and read the transcript to get a balanced viewpoint.”

              Um

              Actually, I was telling you that you could go down to the court house and read the preliminary transcript to see that Judge Garrett said that the weapon with DNA was the probable cause and that DA Cunningham said that there were obvious self-defense elements in this case, but to let a jury sort that out. (I may have been quoting him word for word there, too.)

              It would seem that catsdad, the author of this opinion piece, the reporter at the New Times, and I have read the court files on this case. Whether you want to believe it or not, witnesses say Sarna was attacked after telling the group of men to leave the random guy they were beating up alone.

              Obviously you are free to continue to sit around and argue your opinion about what may or may not have happened until you are blue in the face, or you can cure your rampant ignorance and – that’s right – go to the courthouse and verify the facts for yourself.
              If by some stroke of genius you decide to actually do the later, I promise not to say, “I told you so.”

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

              • abigchocoholic says:

                “read the preliminary transcript to see that Judge Garrett said that the weapon with DNA was the probable cause”
                ————————

                1. a knife with DNA on it does not constitute probable cause. Your statement is just non-sensical. Probable cause is a legal concept.

                “Probable Cause (Reasonable Cause) A level of proof that is reached if a reasonable person would conclude that something is probably true. Probable cause is a higher level of proof than “reasonable suspicion,” but a lesser level of proof than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

                2. The fact that you want the reader to go down to the courthouse to find why the Judge found there was probably cause to hold the defendant over is exactly what I’m talking about. You have no interest whatsoever in showing both sides of the story.

                For whatever reason, you and catsdad appear to be the only two readers here and you just continue to beat your support drum.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

                • gardenslo says:

                  “Obviously you are free to continue to sit around and argue your opinion about what may or may not have happened until you are blue in the face, or you can cure your rampant ignorance and – that’s right – go to the courthouse and verify the facts for yourself.”

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

            • catsdad says:

              Read all the New Times stories at Free Austin Sarna on Facebook. It gives you the whole story and you would realize there are no eye witnesses, or any who don’t want to incriminate themselves, to exactly what took place. Even the so called victim is using amnesia as a defense so as not to perjure himself.
              So the point is with only a knife with the “victims” blood and DNA from the defendant and no one but the defendant able give an account of what happened why does the DA and judge want to waste taxpayer money on taking this matter to trial. Why are they taking the words of drunks who already have several witnesses seeing them assaulting another man over a lone Good Samaritan? Could it be his tattoo, his being a homeless out of town transient?
              You can put your head in the sand and try to defend the DA’s action but this type of prejudice happens all to often in the legal system.
              The point is the DA has an extremely weak case and we as taxpayers don’t feel it is in society’s best interest to waste any more money on trying to pursue a conviction in this case.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

              • abigchocoholic says:

                First you say

                “It gives you the whole story and you would realize there are no eye witnesses, or any who don’t want to incriminate themselves, to exactly what took place. ”

                and then you say

                “Why are they taking the words of drunks who already have several witnesses seeing them assaulting another man over a lone Good Samaritan?”
                ———————–

                “…taking the words drunks” —- Taking what words of what drunks? Right after you finish saying there are no eyewitnesses, you slip up and admit there were eyewitnesses and that they testified against your desired version of the incident and you’re wondering why the Judge believed these people over your guy. You think you achieve something by calling them drunks and having other witnesses accuse them of crimes while not even telling us readers what they allege to have eye witnessed.

                Well, you achieved something alright. You just achieved putting your foot in your mouth and admitting you are disingenuous. Discussion over.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

                • catsdad says:

                  It was fun going back and forth with you and we could argue for ever on minute points but, if you don’t want to check out the facts it doesn’t matter because all it takes is a couple argumentative type like you on the jury and the DA’s case is lost. With the weak case that they have I don’t think it will be hard to get a mistrial.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. swmut says:

    From everything reported about this case, I also think this man deserves a break. From what I read, the group of victims was a large group of young athletes (i thought I read wrestlers, but could be wrong). I guess my point being they could more then handle themselves, and were essentially looking for a fight.

    It was a stupid move on the accused’s part to jump into a fight where you would basically have to use a weapon to stand a chance. But in the end I think it was a well meant action to defend a person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 5

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