SF Superior Court

Guilty plea in 2022 North Beach assault that left city visitor dead

A man pleaded guilty in San Francisco Superior Court this morning to one charge of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a brutal assault on the streets of North Beach in 2022 which resulted in the death of a 46 year old city visitor.

Alexis Meneses punched his victim who immediately fell to the ground and hit his head on the sidewalk. Meneses then kicked the now-unconscious man while he lay defenseless, later returning to the scene to spit on him. The attack took place in the early hours of October 6 2022.

James Paola, 46, of Seattle, succumbed to his injuries one month later, dying on November 4, 2022.

Today the court heard moving testimony from family members of the deceased who paid tribute to him, pleaded directly with his killer to get help, and condemned a justice system that may see Meneses freed in as little as one and a half years.

“Our entire family is still grieving from the loss,” the victim’s sister Carolyn Paola told the court, “Jim was a kind soul and a selfless worker who went out of his way to help others.”  

Paola went on to lambast a criminal justice system which, she said, extended more grace and kindness to the defendant’s family than to her own.

“How sad, unfair and unjust this sentencing process has been,” she said.

“This isn’t justice, this is injustice…How can taking a life be worth only one and a half years?  

“I want justice for him. He didn’t deserve this.”

The victim’s brother Samuel Paola demanded legal reform, telling the court that “one and a half years is almost an insult to my family.”

“We need to have reform. We have been delaying this over and over again.”  

Mr Paola then addressed Meneses directly, sitting only feet away from him, “I am asking you man-to-man to get help…get counseling, work on anger management.”

The court also heard from James Paola’s brother in law Terry Robinson who detailed the appalling assault inflicted on the victim – including mentioning that his hands were in the air, to indicate he meant no harm, before the first punch was struck.

It was previously disclosed that the victim, known as ‘Jim’ and ‘Jimmy’, died due to complications from a traumatic brain injury.

Meneses, 38, of Brisbane, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault, aggravated battery and mayhem for the attack on the 500 block of Broadway in the city’s North Beach nightlife district.

Details of the late night altercation were put to the court at earlier hearings. Security footage, said Assistant District Attorney Annie Sanchez, showed the victim and Meneses talking while standing on the sidewalk. After initially separating they began walking towards each other. Sanchez notes that the victim’s hands had moved “down by his side” when Meneses punched him in the face.

Mr Paola then falls backwards and hits his head on the concrete, she said. The tape then shows the defendant kicking Mr Paola twice on the ground, subsequently returning to spit on his prone body.

“He acted to protect himself,” Meneses’ attorney Adam Chaitin-Lefcourt said, “and became physical only after a fast approaching Mr Paolo was within striking distance.”  

“[T]he level of Mr Paola’s intoxication was a major factor in creating a more serious injury the Mr Meneses’ action would normally dictate,” Chaitin-Lefcourt added, suggesting that the victim might not have been felled by the blow had he been completely sober.

But for that, Meneses “would be facing a battery rather than a manslaughter charge.”

Judge Patrick Thompson denied a defense motion for pretrial release on December 5 2022.

Meneses has a lengthy list of arrests to his name, including for resisting arrest, possessing a dangerous weapon, DUI and drug possession.  

Judge Loretta Giorgi, sitting in department 20 of the Hall of Justice, sympathized with the family’s plight and recognized that they have had to travel from out of state for proceedings.  

“Clearly if this goes forward it is going to require a lot of grace on the part of your family.”

Meneses will next appear in Department 20 on August 7, 2023. The Adult Probation Department has been asked to prepare a presentence report.

This story has been updated.

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