The girlfriend of a man accused of intentionally running down a Cal Fire firefighter in San Francisco’s Richmond District early Thanksgiving Day pleaded not guilty today to a felony charge of being an accessory to the crime after the fact. Alyssa Tejada, 22, is accused of assisting Eduardo Esquivel, who pleaded not guilty last week to attempted murder and other charges for allegedly striking Albert Bartal with a car near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Geary Boulevard around 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 24. The attack allegedly occurred after an altercation between Esquivel and Bartal at a Jack in the Box restaurant at 11th Avenue and Geary Boulevard.
Bartal, 29, who remains at San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries, has worked for the past five years as a seasonal firefighter at Cal Fire’s Saratoga Summit Fire Station in Santa Cruz County and is also an Iraq war veteran.
Esquivel, 22, was arrested Nov. 29 at a home in South San Francisco, but police did not find the car allegedly used in the assault, a black Mazda CX-7, until two days later. Tejada’s defense attorney, Jai Gohel, said today that prosecutors are alleging that she kept the car from police and planned to take it to a body shop to have it repaired. However, Gohel said Tejada ultimately decided to turn the car over to investigators last Thursday.
The car, a rental because Tejada’s own vehicle was getting repairs, was picked up by police in the city’s Hunters Point neighborhood after Gohel notified them about its whereabouts later Thursday. “In the end, the evidence was not tampered with,” Gohel said. But district attorney’s office spokesman Omid Talai said “she was much more involved than simply keeping the car, and to say she turned it over simplifies her involvement.” Talai said, “But for the around-the-clock work for days by the SFPD criminal investigation unit, we would not have the case we do against Ms. Tejada.” Tejada turned herself in to police on Monday on the accessory charge, Talai said.
Gohel said Tejada is “a good kid” who works as a clerk at a hospital and has been dating Esquivel for more than four years. “I don’t think she knew what to do,” he said. At today’s arraignment hearing, Tejada pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and torture, the crimes Esquivel is accused of.
He is currently in custody in lieu of $5 million bail. “No one denies how incredibly, incredibly serious the underlying charges are,” Gohel said, but he said he would be seeking to reduce Tejada’s bail, currently set at $200,000, at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 15. Tejada faces a maximum of three years in prison for the charge, he said. Following the bail hearing, the preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 20.
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