Eric Safire is sticking by his embattled private investigator.
San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Eric Safire has attracted attention for two recent episodes that the prosecution — and in the latest case, the judge — slammed.
This week, the San Francisco district attorney’s office said it’s investigating Steve Vender, a private investigator who worked with Safire on his defense of Philip Pitney, 19, an alleged Eddy Rock gang member on trial now for attempted murder in the shooting of Ladarius Greer, 21, near McAllister and Fillmore streets on Easter Sunday.
Greer disappeared before the trial started. Vender had called him from Safire’s law office, the Chronicle reported yesterday, leaving one voicemail in which he told Greer that he would be arrested if he showed up in court, adding: “It’s October and it’s a good time to visit the Fresno Riviera…and stay well.” Judge Garrett Wong found that call to be “reprehensible and disturbing” but wouldn’t allow Greer’s statement to police to be admitted in Pitney’s trial, according to the Chronicle.
If Fresno has no Riviera, how can there be a problem here? Seriously …
Vender says he didn’t do anything wrong — that he had developed a rapport with Greer and that Greer had even called him at one point seeking advice about getting subpoenaed. “It’s one thing to advise someone on how to avoid subpoena service,” Vender said this afternoon. “It’s another thing to tell them to do so.”
Vender mocked the notion that his voicemail was threatening to Greer. “As you’re aware, Fresno is a land-locked city in the Central Valley,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous notion to think that Steve Vender can pick up the phone and tell violent gang members with a criminal history to disappear to a place that doesn’t exist.”
Safire has denied knowing anything about discouraging Greer from testifying. Walking to another Hall of Justice courtroom after spending the morning in the Pitney trial today, he stuck by Vender, saying the investigator has a great reputation and “everyone here works with him.” He said that he couldn’t talk more about it until after the trial.
In another recent case that Safire took heat for, he had a group of men who looked like his client sit in the courtroom gallery and stand up when the witness was asked to identify the shooter. Police arrested the men on suspicion of gang-related witness intimidation, and the prosecution cried foul over the defense tactic.
— Kate Moser