Hate crimes defendant may enter diversion program

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 5, 2023
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The defendant in a Castro hate crime case may go into diversion. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
The defendant in a Castro hate crime case may go into diversion. Photo: Scott Wazlowski

The man who faces trial in a Castro-area hate crime case may enter the state's mental health diversion program instead, a judge indicated July 5.

Muhammed Abdullah, 20, had a court date Wednesday in Department 22 at San Francisco's Hall of Justice, at 850 Bryant Street. The proceedings didn't get underway for over an hour past the set start time because the regularly scheduled judge was on vacation, forcing Superior Court Judge Harry M. Dorfman to step in.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Abdullah is accused of stealing a rainbow flag and then hitting a man with a "glass object" in the vicinity of 18th and Hartford streets just before noon June 5, according to police. He'd been following the man and another man "aggressively shouting anti-LGBTQ language," the San Francisco Police Department previously stated in the news release.

In addition to hate crimes, Abdullah was also charged with misdemeanor battery, violation of a person's civil rights, and petty theft. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

During Abdullah's arraignment last month, he made clear his disdain for the LGBTQ community in a statement during court, saying, "what the LGBT community is doing to kids is disrespectful to everyone who stands for God." A San Francisco sheriff's deputy was overheard by a reporter saying Abdullah was "in the tank screaming" for some time before he was called before the judge that day.

At a June 21 preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Patrick Thompson ruled that the San Francisco District Attorney's office had met its burden to move forward with the charges for a trial.

At the July 5 hearing, Dorfman announced that "I've got an envelope here at the bench."

Dorfman read the letter — which had been in a sealed envelope — to himself.

"They've asked for additional time," he announced. "Having read the letter, the court is invited to request an evaluation as per penal code 1001.36."

This section of the penal code allows people to receive treatment instead of being prosecuted when charged with a crime. At the successful completion of treatment, the charges are dismissed, and the arrest record sealed.

To qualify, a defendant must have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder that played a significant role in the charges. A defendant has to agree to treatment and a qualified mental health expert has to agree that treatment would be effective. The defendant waives their right to a speedy trial when they agree to diversion.

The diversion program is only in cases where the risk of endangering the public is small.

Dorfman set a return date for Abdullah to Department 22 on Wednesday, July 19. He set a pre-trial conference August 1 in Department 29 for "lawyers only" and a trial start date of August 18; however, these dates are pending whether Abdullah will be undergoing diversion or not, Dorfman said.

Abdullah then pleaded not guilty to the charges again. According to Randy Quezada, the public information officer of the DA's office, a second arraignment is required to formally acknowledge and plead to the charges that the prosecution was able to move forward with after the preliminary hearing.

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