Two cyclists killed. Two drivers arrested. And in a supposedly fair SF, two very different outcomes


First, the driver of a stolen car crashed into Heather Miller, 41, in Golden Gate Park. Next, a motorist drove through a red light south of Market, hitting Kate Slattery, 26. In the aftermath, hundreds of cyclists joined in a commemorative ride in honor of the two women, and thousands sent emails to the mayor demanding safer streets.

Like many great stories, this one faded from the headlines. The two devastated families cried privately, refusing to speak to reporters even now. The city has slowly – and still insufficiently – made some improvements to the streets.

But one question remained: what would happen to the two men behind the wheel, both apprehended by the police?

It took half a decade to find out, but the result is disturbing. In a city focused on criminal justice reform and fairness, the disparity in the treatment of two drivers is glaring. And the prosecutor’s dismissal of a victim advocate in one of the cases only raises more questions.

All these years later, Nicky Garcia, 19 when he allegedly killed Miller, is still in the county jail, where he has been since he was sentenced on July 15, 2016, on $ 10million bail. dollars. He has yet to be tried and the closure of the Miller family remains elusive.

Meanwhile, Farrukh Mushtaq, 32 when he killed Slattery, has only served 16 days in jail – and will not face an additional period after the district attorney’s office and his private attorney concluded a deal over the summer. Under the agreement, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and driving a vehicle in exchange for three years of probation, 160 hours of community service and a few hundred dollars in fines. The Ministry of Motor Vehicles has reinstated his driver’s license.

“It’s so hard for me to hear given the devastation I know Kate Slattery’s death has caused to her family,” said Janice Li, advocacy director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who recalls sobbing as she cycled home from work the night of the two deadly wrecks.

“The cycling community will always remember June 2016,” she said.

Sara Yousuf, spokeswoman for district attorney Chesa Boudin, called the two incidents “heartbreaking tragedies” and noted that the prosecution decisions – murder for Garcia and manslaughter for Mushtaq – had been made by the predecessor of Boudin, George Gascón.

She also pointed to the legal divide in the business: Garcia was accused of killing Miller while breaking into cars in the area, while Mushtaq was reportedly not charged with committing a crime when he killed Slattery.

This is certainly important and explains why there would be some discrepancy in the charges. But that doesn’t explain 16 days versus five and more – and that only feeds Boudin’s critics who say he may be too forgiving in severe cases.

Yousuf said the deal is fair because, if Mushtaq violates his probation, he will be sent to state prison, and she added that he has not violated any of his interim release conditions in recent years. . “We recently managed to get the family shut down and secure Mr. Mushtaq’s accountability,” she said.

Mushtaq’s private lawyer argued in 2019 that he suffered from psychosis, or a break from reality, when he hit Slattery. He spent a few weeks in a psychiatric ward after the accident, then went to jail for 16 days before posting $ 300,000 bail for hit and run and car manslaughter.

But a judge in 2019 dismissed a mental health diversion request after learning the facts of the case.

Mushtaq worked for RockYou, a now defunct tech company headquartered on Howard Street. He texted a friend hours before Slattery’s death to tell him he was heading to the Gold Club, a nearby strip club, where he was confronted by his wife, according to court transcripts. He allegedly accelerated in his BMW to 80 mph, texting and running a red light before killing Slattery.

He then drove two more blocks before stopping, his car backing into a parked car. He neither called 911 nor helped Slattery. Instead, according to court transcripts, he spoke on the phone before bystanders stepped in and called the police.

At the sentencing hearing on July 28, Slattery’s father John described the pain of losing a beloved daughter, the sister of his two boys and the author of a children’s book for inspire girls to pursue tech careers like hers.

“We’re missing his Sunday calls from San Francisco,” John Slattery told the court. “We miss Kate’s visit and the way she took us to parts of town we’ve never seen. … We miss her at every party and especially on her birthday.

“I once thought about the speech I would give at Kate’s wedding that would make her laugh and proud at the same time,” he continued. “It’s no longer a possibility.”

Giles Feinberg, a longtime victim advocate in the district attorney’s office, also spoke at the hearing, offering pointed words for Mushtaq. Feinberg had worked closely with John Slattery since his daughter’s death, learning what services family members needed and keeping them updated on the progress of the case.

Feinberg told Mushtaq he was receiving the gift of freedom and life he took from Slattery – and the victims’ lawyer seemed to blame the incredibly slow pace of the San Francisco criminal justice system and the many different prosecutors affected. to the case over the years for the light phrase.

“As you walk freely through society, know that the time spent on this matter, the five years, has given you this moment,” Feinberg told Mushtaq. “If this case were to happen elsewhere in the state of California or in the Bay Area, for that matter, you would probably be halfway through a prison sentence.”

Those words could have cost Feinberg his job. On Wednesday, Boudin had an intermediary dismissed, according to two sources familiar with the matter. His spokesperson declined to comment, calling it a personal matter.

The sources, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the case, said Feinberg was told he had lost his job due to “conduct in the courtroom.” They said Feinberg – who did not respond to requests for comment – told them he was sure this was a reference to Mushtaq’s sentencing hearing.

Boudin stressed the importance of district attorney’s offices focusing on victims, and several people praised Feinberg for doing just that. Tom Ostly, a longtime prosecutor in the office that Boudin sacked last year in his first days in office, had worked on the Slattery case before losing his job. He said Feinberg taught him how to judge cases while making sure that the victims were not traumatized again.

“Giles’ dedication and empathy was unmatched, and working with him made me a better prosecutor,” said Ostly, who now works for the state attorney general’s office. “It is impossible to reconcile his dismissal with a claimed commitment to the rights of victims. “

In the murder of Heather Miller, Garcia faces charges of murder, manslaughter, burglary and leaving the scene of an accident. Prosecutors said he was driving a stolen car while carrying out a burglary in Golden Gate Park, driving fast and erratically – and hit Miller after crossing the oncoming traffic lane. He allegedly fled and abandoned the car in the park.

Garcia’s family hired private defense lawyer Jonah Chew to represent him, but changed lawyers a few months ago, Chew said. The new lawyer did not return a request for comment. Boudin’s spokesperson declined to comment on Garcia’s case as it is ongoing.

Chew said it was not unusual for defendants to spend so much time in jail awaiting trial if they are charged with murder and that he has never received a concrete offer of settlement from the prosecutor’s office. district. Defendants have the right to a speedy trial, but often do not get it for various reasons.

Said that another suspected hit-and-run driver killed another woman the same day and spent 16 days in jail, Chew said he was surprised.

“It doesn’t sound fair,” he said, “but there has to be more to the story.”

May be. But I’m still waiting to hear it.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @hknightsf

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