San Francisco prosecutors announced today that several alleged gang members arrested Tuesday afternoon for witness intimidation during a court proceeding in a 2008 murder case will not be criminally charged at this time.
The incident took place during the preliminary hearing for an alleged Western Addition gang member, 25-year-old Charles “Cheese” Heard, accused in the Nov. 25, 2008, fatal shooting of Richard Barrett, 29, during an attempted robbery in the city’s North Beach neighborhood.
Heard’s attorney Eric Safire motioned to the men to stand up and face the prosecution’s key witness, a woman who identified Heard as the shooter.
Safire claimed he wanted the woman to see there were others who match her description of the suspect, but police felt they were clearly trying to intimidate her, and arrested the men outside the courtroom.
“The investigation of witness intimidation by the eight suspects who collectively disrupted the preliminary hearing of Charles Heard is open and active,” district attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said this afternoon.
It was initially reported that eight men had been arrested Tuesday, but Buckelew clarified today that only seven men were arrested. The eighth suspect refers to Safire, who has not been arrested at this time, he said.
Prosecutors “will make a charging decision with respect to all suspects once the evidence has been gathered and all witnesses interviewed,” Buckelew said.
He added that the district attorney’s office has requested the advice of the California Attorney General as to whether local prosecutors have any possible conflict of interest in the investigation.
The witness repeated her assertion in court Wednesday that Heard was the man she saw shoot Barrett, and a judge later held Heard to answer for trial on a murder charge.