A San Francisco man accused in the 2007 death of a Haight-Ashbury community activist during a bondage session at the man’s home was sentenced today to eight years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Terry Frazier had originally been charged in San Francisco Superior Court with murder for the killing of 65-year-old Joseph Konopka on the evening of July 11, 2007. Konopka had hired Frazier for sex and died of asphyxiation during a sadomasochism session at Konopka’s Ashbury Street home.
Frazier was accused under the felony murder rule of committing murder during the course of a burglary and robbery. He was alleged to have taken some of Konopka’s belongings, including jewelry, that night after Konopka’s death.
Frazier, 43, pleaded guilty last month to the manslaughter charge, two counts of grand theft and an allegation of committing a felony while out on bail, as well as to possession of a controlled substance in a separate case.
Konopka’s family and friends today remembered him in court as a caring man with a powerful intellect and a deep interest in education and community, and as staunch advocate of human rights.
Konopka was the former head of the community group Residents Against Druggies, aimed at preventing drug-related crime in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and ran unsuccessfully for city supervisor.
“Joe’s basic belief was in peace, freedom and to do what you want in the privacy of your own home,” said his sister Katherine Cunningham.
Cunningham said of Frazier’s contention that Konopka’s death had been an accident, “How do you not help somebody when they’re suffocating?”
Konopka’s widow Ethel Konopka read a lengthy statement in court detailing her close relationship with her husband, her shock at his death, and her profound disappointment in the sentence.
“The secret that he kept from me, of which Mr. Frazier became a participant, was just that, never disturbing our closeness,” Konopka said.
She said it was “gut-wrenching” for her to know that Frazier had watched her husband struggle to breathe and after he died, robbed the home of precious jewelry, including heirlooms from her mother and grandmother.
Konopka claimed Frazier had cased their home in prior visits to see her husband and had planned the burglary. She called him “a thief and a murderer.”
“I do not believe that justice has been served, and my faith in the system has been seriously eroded,” she said.
Konopka told Frazier that while he may have been pleased that his attorney, Susan Kaplan, had helped him get a reduced sentence, “Rather, she has helped pave your way to hell because you have not told the truth.”
Frazier declined to speak at the hearing.
In addition to the eight-year prison sentence, Frazier was ordered today to pay $50,000 restitution to Ethel Konopka. Frazier will, however, receive credit for time already served in jail and good-conduct credit amounting to 2,008 days.