Pair charged with murder in drunken stabbing

Two employees of a San Francisco tenant assistance organization have been charged with robbery and murder for a stabbing outside their South of Market office earlier this month, according to police and court records.

James Thomas, 61, of San Francisco was stabbed outside of the Eviction Defense Collaborative offices at the corner of Sixth and Market streets at about 10 p.m. on Sept. 3, according to police.

That night, police arrested 31-year-old Carlos Alejandro Argueta, a staff attorney with the collaborative. On Thursday they arrested 21-year-old intern Pascal Krummenacher, a visiting student from London.

Krummenacher appeared in court Monday on charges of murder, second-degree robbery and receiving stolen property. Argueta faces the same charges as well as assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records.

A group of around two dozen supporters greeted Krummenacher in court Monday, including his parents and colleagues.

Prosecutors said after a night of drinking, the two colleagues got into a fight over a messenger bag that ended with Argueta stabbing Thomas.

But Krummenacher’s defense attorney, Lewis Romero, argued he was only trying to retrieve Argueta’s stolen bag and had nothing to do with the stabbing.

Romero said Krummenacher had just finished an internship at the Eviction Defense Collaborative and he and Argueta had gone out drinking to celebrate.

Video evidence shows that Krummenacher and Argueta were attacked by three larger men that night, according to Romero. Argueta appears to have lost a messenger bag and Krummenacher lost his glasses in the scuffle. Both men were, by Romero’s account, “quite inebriated.” At some point, Krummenacher saw Thomas pushing a shopping cart with a messenger bag that he mistakenly thought was Argueta’s missing bag and took it.

Assistant District Attorney John Ullom said they had been “thrown out of a bar” when Krummenacher allegedly took the bag from Thomas.

Thomas took the bag back, but Argueta then took the bag again, gave it to Krummenacher and allegedly stabbed Thomas twice during a struggle.

Thomas was taken to San Francisco General Hospital but died from his injuries a short time later.

Judge Harry Dorfman set bail at $1 million rather than the $2 million requested by prosecutors, on the condition that Krummenacher wear a GPS ankle bracelet if he is released on bail. Romero said Krummenacher’s parents were willing to pay up to that amount in bail and would make sure their son made all future court appearances.

Krummenacher is scheduled to enter a plea in the case on Sept. 29.

A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office Monday did not know when Argueta was scheduled to appear in court.

Argueta started working with the Eviction Defense Collaborative in June and Krummenacher’s internship started in August. The organization provides legal assistance for low-income tenants facing eviction.

A representative for the organization attending Monday’s court hearing declined to comment.