Kwame Harris’ defense attorney told jurors yesterday the former San Francisco 49er offensive tackle did in fact injure his ex-boyfriend and break bones during an argument at a Menlo Park restaurant but that it was in self-defense after the alleged victim threw the first punch.
Harris, 31, slapped Dimitri Geier once as a “natural reaction” to a “forcible punch to his chest” and later swung twice, attorney Alin Cintean said during opening statements.
“Kwame was defending himself,” Cintean said.
Prosecutor Brian Donnellan didn’t shy away from conceding Geier punched twice — one a glancing blow and another that connected — but said Harris’ response was five blows to the face. He asked jurors weighing the charges of felony domestic violence and assault with force to consider who escalated the altercation from verbal to physical and if Harris’ response to aggression was proportional.
Police reports list Harris as 6 feet 7 inches and 240 pounds while Geier is 6 feet 1 inch and 220 pounds.
Donnellan also told jurors to think about the sequence of events on Aug. 21, 2012, that began with dinner at Su Hong To Go and ended with Harris arrested and Geier requiring a metal plate to repair broken cheek and orbital bones.
The two men met roughly five years before the fight when Harris hired Geier who was working as an escort, Donnellan said. The arrangement turned into a romantic relationship and the men even lived together for about six months in Harris’ Napa home before later parting. They remained friends and Geier stayed with Harris when he was here on business. Donnellan said Geier had a “game” in which he would borrow Harris’ underwear but had not done so Aug. 21.
That night, prior to Harris taking Geier to San Jose International Airport, the men dined at a two-person table at Su Hong. Geier poured soy sauce into a container which angered Harris who questioned his lack of table manners, Donnellan said.
Harris suggested Geier find his own way to the airport and, as the two men went to his car to remove luggage, Donnellan said Harris accused Geier of wearing his underwear and started “pantsing” him.
On the third try, Geier said he grabbed Harris’ hand which led to the punches, Donnellan said.
Cintean disagreed with Geier’s account of having his pants tugged at five times, saying Harris only “pulled up the back of his shirt.”
After releasing Geier, Harris left but the injured and shocked man remained about a half hour before calling a cab and en route deciding to seek hospital care.
Harris was arrested early the next morning and, shortly after, Geier filed a civil lawsuit which was dismissed in February. Donnellan told jurors they’ll hear from a domestic violence expert about victim reactions that may seem counterintuitive such as filing and dropping a lawsuit or being noncooperative with the prosecution. Both are “not unsurprising,” he said.
Geier refuses to testify but Donnellan will let jurors hear his testimony from a preliminary hearing. Cintean indicated his client plans to testify.
“You will hear from Kwame,” Cintean said. “You’ll hear what happened.”
Harris is free on $75,000 bail.
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