Victim in SF attack caught on video wants judge recalled for releasing suspect

Austin James Vincent was freed by a judge after being charged with a terrifying attack that was caught on surveillance video.

Vincent, 25, has no local address. His whereabouts are now unknown. 

Through tears, his alleged victim told KTVU, "I can't stop thinking about the fact that this man is free after what he did to me."

Paneez, the woman who was attacked, doesn't want her last name used. She now wants the judge who released him recalled.

That judge is Christine Van Aken of San Francisco Superior Court.

In a tweet, Paneez wrote "I need answers!" and tags former Gov. Jerry Brown, who named Van Aken to the bench last year, and Gov. Newsom. She said the judge "is not fit for this job and is putting all of our lives in danger. What are you waiting for? Please, you have to do something."

KTVU stopped by the Hall of Justice on Thursday and watched the judge at work. She's a former San Francisco deputy city attorney who played a key role in cases involving marriage equality and presidential overreach. Her clerk said she would have no comment.

The judge rejected a safety risk assessment conducted by SF Pretrial Diversion Project, which said Vincent was unsuitable for release. That finding was made after the group used a computer tool, plugging in factors like Vincent's age, criminal history and whether he's skipped court hearings.

"Our main concern, and what drives our work, is public safety, and making sure people show up for court," said David Mauroff, CEO of the pretrial diversion project.

Mauroff said Vincent is a client and therefore he couldn't go into any details of the case, including how often Vincent must now check in them. He says he's not second-guessing the judge.

"You're asking me to get in the judge's head and that's not our position, it's not our role and I would never do that," Mauroff said. "They're on the bench, and we respect their decisions."

In a statement, Vincent's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Saleem Belbahri, said his client has no history of violent offenses. He said, "By all accounts this appears to have been a young man having a mental health crisis, who has now been heavily charged in this incident."​​​​​​

This isn't the first time there's been controversy involving an inmate and pretrial diversion.

In 2017, just five days after a judge released Lamonte Mims from jail on a gun charge, police say he killed San Francisco photographer Ed French for his camera at Twin Peaks.

DA George Gascon, meanwhile, has also weighed in, saying jailing the mentally ill is only a "band-aid" solution. He said people Vincent should be receiving mental health services instead of potentially seeing their conditions worsen while behind bars.

The San Francisco police union is blasting the judge's decision to release Vincent as "reckless," saying she should be reassigned to traffic court. In a statement, the union said, "She may have been a reasonably competent civil attorney, but she is a catastrophe of a criminal judge."