Jury Finds Woman Not Guilty Of Muni Robbery

San Francisco, CA — A San Francisco woman accused of kicking and robbing a fellow Muni passenger was found not guilty of felony charges after a month-long trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.

Jury members on Tuesday afternoon acquitted San Francisco resident Shanti Rhodes, 22, of robbery and felony assault likely to produce great bodily injury. Rhodes was convicted on a lesser charge, misdemeanor simple assault, and released Tuesday on time served. Rhodes, who had no previous convictions, faced five years in state prison if convicted of the felony charges, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen.

Rhodes faced trial with two co-defendants, San Francisco residents Kristian Longino, 23, and Ebony Espinoza, 26, who both faced robbery charges. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Carol Yaggy directed an acquittal of  Longino on July 15 due to insufficient evidence. The jury on Tuesday found Espinoza not guilty of robbery, but convicted her on a lesser charge of grand theft.

The jury reached its verdict after five days of deliberation.

“Jury members carefully questioned the testimony they heard and were extremely diligent about weighing each piece of evidence,” Nguyen said.  “This was a fair verdict by an exceptionally thoughtful jury.”

Rhodes, Longino and Espinoza were arrested March 15, 2010 after an argument with a fellow passenger broke out aboard the 21 Hayes bus.  The passenger, a 19-year-old Pacifica woman, reportedly began trading insults with the women after stepping on Rhodes’ shopping bag and refusing to apologize.

Witnesses told police a scuffle broke out as all four passengers exited the bus at Market and Eighth streets. The Pacifica resident claimed Rhodes, standing on the bus steps, kicked her in the face while the other women pulled her hair and stole her cell phone and iPod. She refused medical attention.

Police detained the three women as they sat in a nearby taxi. No iPod was found in their possession. The passenger’s phone, which was found inside the taxi, was returned.

Adachi said the jury made the right decision.

“Jury members were able to untangle this chaotic scene and determine there was little solid evidence against Ms. Rhodes,” Adachi said.

Of the three women, only Rhodes was a Public Defender client. Attorneys Andrew Tursi and Marsanne Weese represented Espinoza and Garry Preneta represented Longino.

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