Student cleared of battery charges against San Francisco police

By Emily Daly
The Guardsman

A jury acquitted City College student Matthew Hoyt, 23, of two counts of battery against two San Francisco police officers on Jan. 20, stemming from an altercation last summer with the two off-duty cops.

The incident occurred on June 26, 2010, as Hoyt was skateboarding down Turk street. A civilian car driven by Officer John Anton and accompanied by Sgt. Robert Guinan started honking at him. The officers were dressed as civilians.

According to Hoyt’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Walter McMath, Hoyt moved to the other side of the street and the car followed him, leading to an exchange between him and officers. Hoyt, believing he was going to be attacked, punched Officer Anton three times through the car window after Anton used the vehicle to block Hoyt’s path.

Sgt. Guinan chased Hoyt on foot and when confronted, Hoyt punched the officer. The men then identified themselves as police officers and took Hoyt into custody, McMath said.

“We argued all along that Hoyt was reasonably concerned for his safety, and acted accordingly because of that,” he said.

Hoyt’s trial lasted three days, and the jury deliberated for about three hours before clearing him of the charges, said Tamara Aparton, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. She added that a Santa Rosa man who had a similar incident involving Officer Anton testified during the trial, but she couldn’t release his name.

Hoyt’s version of what happened never changed from the day of the incident, McMath said, and he was excited to get into court to assert his right to a trial.

A media relations spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department said they had no further comments for the press since the case had been adjudicated.

Aparton said it’s not unusual for the public defenders to get clients who are students, since it’s rare that students or other young people can afford private attorneys.

McMath’s advice to students who need legal help is that although every case will be different, it helps to have a defense attorney to protect your rights.

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