Jury Convicts Attempted Murderer Despite Disappearance of Victim Allegedly Scared Off By Private Investigator

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A San Francisco jury convicted Phil Pitney, 19, of attempted murder Thursday, even after the victim he shot at was a no-show for the entire trial -- apparently because he was threatened by the defense attorney's investigator.


The Chron reported last week that Steve Vender, a private investigator working with defense attorney Eric Safire, had called Ladarius Greer, 21, on the eve of the trial and threatened that he would be arrested if he showed up for trial. The victim played police the investigator's message: Vender tells the victim that he knows he has an outstanding warrant in Solano County, and "it's a good time to visit the Fresno Riviera."

Police had no luck locating the Greer throughout the trial to testify about the shooting or identify the suspect, said District Attorney spokesman Brian Buckelew.  

District Attorney Marc Guillory tried to enter the investigator's threats as evidence of why the victim was a no-show, but Judge Garrett Wong wouldn't allow it. "It made the case very difficult for us but it turned out well," Buckelew said.

After two days of deliberation, the jury convicted Pitney of all charges with enhancements, and the man faces 37 years to life in state prison (Or shall we say the Folsom Riviera?).

This is the second ethically murky incident in the last couple weeks from Safire's camp. While he told the Chronicle he had no knowledge of Vender's phone call, in another case, he had seven men with gold grills stand in a courtroom at the moment a witness was to identify the alleged gunman in a murder case. All seven were arrested for intimidating a witness, but were not charged.

But Safire and Vender may not be off the hook. Buckelew says the police are investigating both men, although SFPD spokeswoman Sergeant. Lyn Tomioka could not confirm that Thursday night.

"It's bad form, its unethical, whether its against the law is something we are evaluating." Buckelew said. "The most recent episode with the investigator calling the victim, it looks like it's against the law, but the final decision of whether to charge the investigator has not been made yet." 

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