More than three months have passed since a Los Gatos man was brutally beaten at a San Francisco 49ers game and still no decision on criminal charges against the alleged attacker. NBC Bay Area Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski updates his exclusive report. This story was published March 22, 2012, at 12:10 a.m.
More than three months after a 49ers game left a football fan bruised and beaten, no criminal charges have been filed against the alleged attacker.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has confirmed that the San Francisco Police Department has been unable to find a single independent witness at the 49ers-Steelers game on December 19, when Manuel Austin Jr. was attacked.
That means no justice for the 66-year-old 49ers fan.
On Wednesday, NBC Bay Area Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski confronted the SFPD about the stalled investigation.
“Sources in the District Attorney’s department have kind of blamed the San Francisco Police Department for dragging their feet on this case,” Kovaleski told Sgt. Mike Andraychak.
“I wouldn’t say so.” Andraychak responded, “They did ask for additional information.”
He added, “It’s a bit of a task to go back and locate people and locate evidence in a case like this.”
Austin went to Candlestick for the Steelers game with his wife and son back in December -- it was his first game in seven years. He didn’t expect to get punched so hard that he needed stitches in his mouth, dental work to fix broken teeth and weeks to heal a black eye.
“It was horrible and frightening,” Austin told Kovaleski during an interview in February. “I can tell you the truth that I thought I was going to die there. I really mean that.”
Austin’s son witnessed the first punch.
“It sounded like a steak hitting the concrete from about two stories up,” said Manuel Austin III. “I will never forget that sound.”
Then he stepped in and defended his father.
“I believe that if I wasn’t there, these guys wouldn’t have stopped,” he told Kovaleski.
Following the fight, SFPD issued only one misdemeanor citation to one of Austin’s attackers.
“So the guys who beat you are only facing a misdemeanor?” Kovaleski asked Austin in February.
“Yes,” Austin replied.
“And your life has been turned upside down?” Kovaleski asked.
“Yes,” Austin said.
“Is that justice?” Kovaleski asked him.
“In my opinion,” Austin said, “no.”
In an interview with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, Kovaleski asked why felony criminal charges had not been filed against the man who beat up Austin.
“This is an investigation that is still missing pieces,” Gascon said. “Basically we have critical questions that need to be answered.”
Gascon said he has seen photos of Austin’s black eye and missing teeth after the attack, but he says charges are unlikely without independent eyewitnesses and solid evidence.
“We have requested additional information because we still have a legal standard we must meet,” Gascon said.
The San Francisco District Attorney requested additional information back in December. Just hours before Kovaleski’s scheduled interview with the District Attorney on Wednesday, SFPD finally responded with an update -- but no independent witnesses.
“A coincidence?” Kovaleski asked Gascon.
“Hopefully people have been working hard” he said, “and this happens to be a coincidence that is unrelated to the interview.”
Kovaleski then asked the DA, “Do you believe it?”
“I am going to leave it at that for now,” Gascon said.
Now, nearly 100 days since the beating, the SFPD says it needs the public’s help. If you were at the 49ers game on December 19 and witnessed the attack on Manuel Austin Jr. in section nine in the lower level in the west end zone, you are asked to call the San Francisco Police Department tip line at (415) 575-4444.