Obstruction of Justice

A kidnapping victim watched his case linger needlessly in court 
for years. In S.F., he has company.

It's a sentiment Evan Kruger would understand.

On the night of Aug. 1, 2006, Kruger got a call from a woman he didn't know well. Michelle Maxie was a young Filipina who worked at the San Francisco Giants Dugout store at AT&T Park, where his older brother, Michael, was her boss. They'd hung out over the summer and even talked a few times on the phone, but their relationship had never progressed beyond casual friendship.

Kruger didn't feel like spending time with her that night. The Giants had undergone a humiliating loss to the Washington Nationals, and he had been at the ballpark to witness the debacle. After the game, Kruger, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology who was home on summer break, planned to head to a friend's house to drink beer and play videogames.

Stephanie Henry, a key witness in the prosecution of her friend’s killer, was outraged when the D.A.’s office struck a plea bargain after three years of delays.
Jamie Soja
Stephanie Henry, a key witness in the prosecution of her friend’s killer, was outraged when the D.A.’s office struck a plea bargain after three years of delays.

"She was obviously upset and wanted to meet up," recalls Kruger, now a 26-year-old with impassive blue eyes, a square jaw, and a sturdy, athletic build. He had no idea what could be wrong, or why she would turn to him for help. "I didn't want to talk to her, but she was pleading with me." He agreed that she could pick him up at his friend's place in Diamond Heights.

After sliding into the passenger seat of Maxie's Honda, Kruger sat uneasily as Maxie — who, he recalls, was "visibly upset" — drove two blocks ahead and stopped the car. A tall figure suddenly opened the passenger-side door. "Get out of my seat," he said. Startled, Kruger stepped into the street.

"This is Anwar, my boyfriend," Maxie said. "He thinks we've been messing around. We want to talk and clear the air."

Kruger said he was going to walk back to his friend's place. But Anwar Webster — an athletic, 6-foot-2 black kid — insisted that he get into the backseat. "We're just going to talk," Maxie assured him. "We'll drive you back to your friend's house." Against his better judgment, Kruger got into the car again.

After driving another few blocks, Maxie stopped the car a second time. Two guys Kruger didn't know got in on either side, sandwiching him in back. He had a growing sense of panic. Webster began barking questions at him from the front. "What have you been doing with my girl?"

Kruger didn't know what to say. He barely knew Maxie, and nothing physical had happened between them. She seconded his denials, but Webster refused to accept their answers.

"Tell him the truth," one of the guys said. "He only gets mad when he thinks you're lying."

Maxie pulled the car onto 101 and drove to Hunters Point. By now it was past midnight, and Kruger felt his anxiety crest as he realized he was being ferried into one of the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods. One of the two men in the backseat had taken his phone.

The roving interrogation continued as the car cruised through dilapidated residential blocks, occasionally stopping for Webster or one of the guys in back to get out and go inside the house of somebody they knew. Webster eventually took the wheel. "We're gonna fuck you up if you don't tell the truth," he warned. Finally, close to 3 a.m., the car stopped at a deserted cul-de-sac abutting the overgrown former industrial lots at the eastern edge of Hunters Point.

"Let's just kill this white boy now," Webster said.

Kruger had been waiting for hours, without luck, for his chance to bolt. Now, as the vehicle idled, two more cars pulled up. He saw eight to 10 people milling in the street. Maxie walked off to talk to them.

One of the two men who'd sat with him in the back, whom the others called Abraham, leaned into the car. On the ride, Abraham had been trying to talk Webster down, arguing that this was too much stress over a woman. Now he told Evan that they were going to take him to an ATM to withdraw some cash, hoping this would allay Webster's anger.

Abraham produced a pillowcase and showed Kruger what was inside: a small handgun. "Just so you know we're not fucking around," he said.

Kruger was driven to an ATM on Third Street, where he emptied his checking account. When they arrived back at the cul-de-sac, Kruger waited in the car while the $80 was handed over to Webster in the street. Then Abraham reappeared.

"Anwar wants you dead," he said.

But Abraham had another idea. He quietly explained that he was supposed to march Kruger into the adjacent empty field and shoot him. He didn't want to do that. He thought Webster was overreacting. Instead, Abraham wanted Kruger to kneel in the grass while he discharged the weapon into the ground. He would then lie there, playing dead, until Abraham returned to get him.

"I'm going to grab you by the arm," Abraham said. "Make it seem real."

When Abraham fired the shot, the sound was deafening. Kruger thinks the gun must have been placed directly beside his head. His body convulsed reflexively, his shoulders bunched up, and — dutifully playing his part in the mock execution — he tumbled face-first to the ground.

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