San Francisco, CA — A 24-year-old woman accused of spray-painting offensive graffiti around San Francisco was acquitted of felony hate crime charges Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced.
The jury deliberated a day and a half before finding San Francisco resident Katherine Dunbar not guilty of hate crime allegations. She was convicted on one count of felony vandalism for painting “KKKatie, All This Means Nothing” on the William McKinley statue in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen. The jury hung 6-6 on a felony terrorism charge and convicted Dunbar of nine misdemeanor counts of vandalism and one misdemeanor charge of assault on an officer.
Dunbar was arrested at Bay to Breakers on May 17, 2010 and accused of a four-month vandalism spree, tagging businesses, murals, public transportation, portable toilets and other city property, along with landmarks such as Grace Cathedral, the War Memorial Opera House and the McKinley Statue. She was also accused of assaulting a witness and later biting a police officer at San Francisco General Hospital. Prior to the trial, Dunbar was charged with 10 felony counts and six misdemeanors. On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Wallace Douglass granted the defense’s motions for directed acquittals on a second felony hate crime charge and a misdemeanor vandalism charge. Douglass dismissed another felony charge and whittled the bulk of the remaining felonies down to misdemeanors after the prosecution failed to sufficiently prove its case. Jurors deliberated on two felony charges and 12 misdemeanors.
In addition to her tag name, KKKatie, Dunbar’s graffiti included backward swastikas and anarchist sentiments. During the weeklong trial, Nguyen presented evidence that Dunbar co-opted her childhood nickname, K-K-Katie, which was based on a song, into a graffiti moniker.
“The name KKKatie and the backward swastikas were a terribly misguided effort to shock people through art and make them question their assumptions,” Nguyen said. “When this case began, it was obvious Katie was not a racist but a misguided kid with a bad tag moniker. This was clear to the jury because they had no question about her intention and acquitted her of the hate crime charges.”
Adachi said he believes the verdict was fair.
“The jury clearly agreed with the defense about Ms. Dunbar’s intentions and concluded it was not a hate crime,” Adachi said.