Newly uncovered surveillance video prompted a mistrial Thursday in the second trial of a South San Francisco motel clerk whose first conviction for allegedly groping and attempting to rape a maid was overturned because a judge found that race had been improperly inserted into the case.
Navjit Singh, 26, was in the middle of jury selection yesterday when his defense attorney John Halley successfully sought a mistrial because he felt some portion of the tape which was only recently able to be viewed might be helpful to his client, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
A new trial date will be set March 18.
The tape in question is footage of the Ramada Inn areas like the hallway, Wagstaffe said.
Singh was a front desk clerk at the South San Francisco motel on Sept. 9, 2011, when the woman, a Spanish-only speaking maid, told authorities he entered the room where she was cleaning a bathtub to see if it was available.
The woman reported that he spoke to her but she didn’t understand what he said and replied “What happened?” because that was the only phrase she knew that might be appropriate.
According to prosecutors, Singh grabbed the woman and put his hands down her shirt before forcing her onto a bed to pull off her clothing. After a few minutes of the victim screaming, Singh reportedly got up and apologized with his hands in a praying pose before returning to the front desk. The woman told another maid but asked her not to tell the manager and police because she was afraid of losing her job and being deported back to El Salvador.
In November 2012, a jury deliberated three days before convicting Singh of attempted rape, assault with the intent to rape, sexual battery and false imprisonment. The following April, Judge Jonathan Karesh heard the defense argument for a new trial on several grounds. Karesh didn’t find any prosecutorial misconduct or defense incompetence but felt that the race issue had deprived Singh of due process and set aside the verdicts.
The second trial began earlier this year. The video that sparked the mistrial was always in the prosecution’s custody but nobody could get them to open until now, Wagstaffe said.
Singh has been out of custody on $100,000 bail.
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