San Francisco

Surveillance Video Helps Acquit Mother in Bar Room Brawl

A 49-year-old woman accused of beating another mother in a bar room brawl was acquitted Tuesday of all charges after a jury viewed video evidence that showed she acted in self-defense.

Jurors found Joy Jeffries of San Francisco not guilty of one count of battery and one count of violating a restraining order. If convicted of the misdemeanors, Jeffries faced a year in jail, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Andrea Lindsay.

Jeffries was arrested June 18 in the Bayview neighborhood, after patrol officers spotted her in a fight with another woman on the sidewalk behind The Jazz Room bar in the 5000 block of Third Street.

There was a history of "bad blood" between Jeffries and the 39-year-old stemming from the woman’s child bullying Jeffries’ daughter, Lindsay said out of court.

School officials did not stop the bullying, Lindsay said, and Jeffries confronted the mother verbally. The woman then filed a restraining order against Jeffries, although that evidence was not admitted in court.

After police separated the pair, the woman told officers that Jeffries followed her outside, then swung a set of car keys at her face, striking her in the cheek. Police noted the woman had no visible injuries, and she refused medical attention.

Jeffries, whose face was bloodied, did not have a chance to tell police her side of the story, Lindsay told the jurors.

After learning about the restraining order against Jeffries and hearing her slur her words, police concluded she was intoxicated and had likely been the aggressor in the attack. In fact, Jeffries was born with a hearing impairment that affects her speech, and had only a single drink prior to the beating, Lindsay said.

During the trial, surveillance video contradicted the complaining witness’ story. In the footage, at about 1 minute 38 seconds into the video, the woman can be seen blocking Jeffries’ exit from the bar while screaming at her. As Jeffries tries to exit, the woman punches her twice. The pair falls to the ground, where they appear to wrestle as a crowd looks on.

Jeffries, a current college student and a former caregiver for hospice patients and disabled children, wept with relief when the verdict was read.

“The jury saw what the prosecution refused to see: that Ms. Jeffries was the victim here,” Lindsay said.

In August, the Sonoma County District Attorney decided not to charge Delia Garcia-Bratcher of Santa Rosa, after sheriff's deputies said she choked a 12-year-old boy.

Garcia-Bratcher had argued that the boy had bullied her daughter, and that she had spoken to him verbally, but never laid hands on him.

At the time, Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Brockley said he declined to charge Garcia-Bratcher because "I only file cases I feel I can prove."

He said many of the 25 witnesses corroborated both the story of Garcia-Bratcher and her 9-year-old daughter, and with all the "diametrically opposed" testimony, he didn't feel he could prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had occurred.

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