A man accused of stripping naked and harassing people while doing acrobatic moves at a BART station in San Francisco last month pleaded not guilty today to seven felony and misdemeanor charges.
Yeiner Perez Garizabalo, 24, faces two felony counts of false imprisonment, four misdemeanor counts of battery on public transportation and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery for the May 10 incident at the 16th Street Mission BART station.
Garizabalo allegedly ran naked through the station, grabbing several passengers and kicking a BART employee while also doing a backflip and other acrobatic moves. The incident was captured in a video posted on YouTube that has gone viral via social media.
He was arrested after visiting with immigration authorities in the city on Monday, District Attorney George Gascon said.
The Colombia native did not speak during his arraignment in San Francisco Superior Court this afternoon while his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Paul Myslin, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf.
Myslin asked for the felony counts to be downgraded to misdemeanors, saying that Garizabalo has no criminal record and his actions “appear to be of a psychiatric nature.”
However, Judge Brendan Conroy denied the request and ordered Garizabalo to remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail. He is also being held on a detainer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and could face deportation.
Garizabalo was a member of the Berkeley-based circus troupe ClownSnotBombs and some of his former colleagues came to today’s hearing to show support for him.
Ben Goldstein, 64, who performs music for the troupe, said he has talked on the phone to Garizabalo since the May 10 incident.
“He didn’t realize at first what happened. His memory of what happened was that he was in a play,” Goldstein said. “He didn’t realize how serious and horrible this was until he saw the videos of himself.”
Goldstein said Garizabalo’s behavior had gotten erratic recently and that he was at the Stage Werx Theater on Valencia Street hours before the incident in the BART station, but developed a blank stare and then walked out of the theater without talking to anybody.
Goldstein said he thinks Garizabalo may have suffered “some kind of stroke or some type of medical condition” that caused him to act so strangely.
Fable Kievman, 31, a clown in the troupe, said Garizabalo acted out violently days before the May 10 incident, although no one was hurt.
He “is a person who needs help,” Kievman said. “He needs to get a psychiatric evaluation.”
The district attorney said Garizabalo was placed on a psychiatric hold following the incident but was released shortly afterward.
Gascon said BART police never filed an arrest report for the incident, so prosecutors were never notified about it until after the YouTube video gained online attention.
BART police were not immediately available to comment on the case.
Gascon said he was thankful that Garizabalo was in custody because he “could be very dangerous to himself and to others.”
The acrobat will return to court on July 18 for a pre-hearing conference.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News