Dog Bites

Prime Witness
Forget about being a crime victim. Witnessing a crime can almost ruin your life. Nina Darst, a 38-year-old Mission District resident, learned this lesson after seeing a stabbing go down at the 500 Club last November. She was at the bar when three men started a brawl that left one man nearly dead. The cops arrested two of the brawlers, including the stabber. But the third man got away, and the cops didn't identify him until much later.

Darst's cooperation with police became public knowledge when she helped identify a female companion of the brawlers in a crime-scene interview with officers. Darst says she gave her statement to police within earshot of one of the suspects' companions.

Shortly afterward, Darst's house was broken into and then harassing phone calls in the dead of night began. "Keep quiet," the unidentifiable male voice would say. She got four such calls and says that someone then shot a bullet through her window. Later, the wiring and the exhaust system on her Harley-Davidson were trashed. Her terrified roommate moved out, and Darst had to sell everything she owned to make the rent.

Believing that she was the target of witness intimidation, Darst told the district attorney that she wasn't going to testify in court against the two men they'd arrested; they threatened to jail her on a contempt charge.

Darst's life began to normalize in August when the two men arrested for the brawl pleaded guilty and she was let off the hook from testifying. A week later, the cops learned of the third man's role in the fight and arrested him for assault. "It was insane," Darst says. "I couldn't sleep. I went back to a therapist because of this. I put bars on my window. I wouldn't even drink a beer because I felt like I always had to be on my toes."

Pass the ...
You've heard, politically speaking, about having a seat at the table, right? Well, what about a candidate who belongs on the table?

That would be Kirk Mustard, aka Mustard for Mayor. Come next Tuesday, Mustard won't actually be listed on your ballot -- the sometimes-San Francisco resident hopes you'll write his name in yourself. Sporting a pair of yellow mirrored sunglasses -- perhaps to protect his eyes from his own blindingly bright Hawaiian shirt -- Mustard was on 24th Street recently handing out pamphlets explaining his campaign platform. It's a simple platform, one that matches the color of his condiment: He wants the sun to shine year round.

"Quite a few people did say they'd vote for me, but I don't know if I believe them," Mustard says. "You just can't trust the public."

Asked if his real name is actually Kirk Mustard, the candidate swears it is and adds this fact: "Actually, it's Kirk Douglas Mustard. Like Jimmy Stewart Ketchup."

Who, we assume, would be all for rain.

Bank Shot
Peter Enright didn't mind when his bank, Wells Fargo, launched a hostile takeover of First Interstate Bank. But what put the starch in his shorts was the announcement in his monthly statement that the cost of maintaining a checking account at Wells Fargo was going up from $9 to $10 a month, and the balance for free checking was rising from $750 to $1,000.

"I found it offensive," says Enright, who felt that he and other financial small-fry were being asked to finance Wells Fargo's takeover. So he closed his account.

Wells Fargo spokesman Rod Sherrell says the increase in checking fees has nothing to do with the takeover, and insists that there are plenty of independent banks around to keep the market competitive.

By George Cothran, Ellen McGarrahan, Jack Shafer

 
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