(Special to Bay City News/New Africa)

A 31-year-old man working as a DoorDash driver has pleaded no contest to felony assault charges for attacking a liquor store clerk in South San Francisco last March after the clerk asked him to wear his face mask correctly in the store, San Mateo County prosecutors said Tuesday.

Rimmer Cortezgarcia Jr. entered the plea for the attack that occurred on the night of March 24, 2021, at Friends Market at 200 San Felipe Ave., where he had gone to pick up a DoorDash order for someone, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

The 25-year-old store clerk saw that Cortezgarcia did not have his face mask covering his nose and asked him to do so or his order would be canceled. Cortezgarcia then went behind the counter to argue with the clerk and pushed him and the clerk pushed him back.

Cortezgarcia then grabbed him by the throat and pushed him into an ice cream freezer while threatening to kill him, prosecutors said.

The clerk was eventually able to run to the back of the store and called 911, and Cortezgarcia was arrested outside of the store.

He made the no contest plea Monday in exchange for a proposed sentence of up to a year in county jail. Cortezgarcia remains out of custody on his own recognizance and is set for sentencing on March 7, prosecutors said.

Cortezgarcia’s defense attorney Steve Chase called the case “a product of our time” in the COVID-19 pandemic and said his client had been in the same store the previous day and wore his mask the same way.

Chase noted that Cortezgarcia waited outside the store following the encounter and believed “he’s the one who has been aggrieved.”

Cortezgarcia has “been basically homeless” and lost his car following the arrest, and put off getting an apartment because of the pending criminal case, Chase said.

He decided to take the plea agreement to avoid a possible state prison sentence if the case went to trial, and Chase said he hopes his client receives as short a sentence as possible.

“COVID has been very hard on him but he’s a hard worker, he does his best to get by,” Chase said.