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Woman in hatecrime case convicted of criminal threats

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Pearly Martin. Photo: Courtesy SFPD
Pearly Martin. Photo: Courtesy SFPD  

Jurors in San Francisco have convicted a bisexual woman who'd been accused of yelling "faggots" and threatening several gay men with a knife of criminal threats and other charges, but they hung on hate crime enhancements, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The jury announced its verdict Tuesday morning against Pearly Martin, 30, whose attorney had argued her use of the homophobic slur "doesn't mean she hates faggots."

The trial, which took just over a week, stemmed from an April 25, 2016 incident outside Club OMG, a gay bar in the South of Market neighborhood.

During his closing argument Wednesday, April 5, defense attorney John Kaman told jurors that Martin is "part of the community she's supposedly biased against," and her use of the word "faggot" during the incident "doesn't mean she hates faggots. ... It's just an insult. We should all be familiar with generic insults these days."

"There's another world in the Tenderloin," the neighborhood Martin's from, and people there speak differently, Kaman said. In that area, he said, "It's not such a big deal to call somebody a 'faggot.'"

Kaman also repeatedly brought up Martin's race.

"When I think of a hate crime, I think of Hitler destroying the Warsaw ghetto" or the Ku Klux Klan, he said. "I don't think of a single black woman who happens to be" facing "12 gay people or 12 cross dressers, whatever you want to call them."

Kaman also said that Martin had been provoked that night, including when one of the people outside Club OMG who was dressed in drag called her the N-word.

He asked jurors to weigh that slur against "faggot."

"Which word is more charged with emotion? Which word is more insulting?" Kaman said.

He added, "Black people are being killed by the police a whole lot more than gay people, a whole lot more than cross dressers." If anyone has a reason to feel unsafe, he said, it's Martin.

Kaman, who's a private attorney, said that surveillance footage from Club OMG had showed Martin waving her pocketknife once during the incident, but most of the time she'd kept it by her left leg.

In response to Kaman's comments last Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Ben Mains told jurors that Martin shouldn't "get a pass," and when she'd called the victims "faggots," she'd clearly targeted them "because of who they are."

"Saying 'faggot' is not just something she throws around," Mains said. "... She knows exactly what that means."

He also disputed that Martin had been called the N-word, and he said that being called the slur still wouldn't have been "justification to take out a knife and threaten to kill" the victims while calling them "the F-word."

Besides the criminal threats charges and the accompanying use-of-a-knife enhancements, jurors also convicted Martin of residential burglary with a hot prowl enhancement, prosecutors said. She was found not guilty on false imprisonment charges.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said, "The jury has spoken, and sentencing will follow."

The maximum amount of time Martin could spend in custody is just over 10 years. Her sentencing is currently set for May 9.


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