Friday, July 15, 2011 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A bicyclist accused of possessing hallucinogenic mushrooms and a man tried a second time for the same domestic violence charge were acquitted in separate cases Thursday, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated less than two hours before finding 41-year-old Eric Meoli not guilty of one misdemeanor count of possession of psilocybin mushrooms. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths, employed an unusual argument during the one-and-half day trial: Meoli had long forgotten about the mushrooms in his backpack, and therefore could not have knowingly possessed them.
“The elements of the law require that Mr. Meoli know about the illegal mushrooms in his possession,” Lutes-Koths said.
Meoli, a San Francisco cannabis club worker, was arrested at the Powell Street BART station May 25, 2011. BART police stopped Meoli for riding his bicycle on the platform and asked to search his backpack for identification. While searching a small internal pocket of the backpack, police found less than 4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms.
Meoli told police that a year earlier, he had given $10 of legally-obtained medical marijuana to “a hippy in Golden Gate Park” who was suffering from insomnia. The grateful, sleep-deprived hippy gave him the mushrooms in return. Meoli stated he had completely forgotten about the mushrooms.
Meoli, who has no prior convictions, testified during the trial, along with two BART police officers.
“Jurors took their deliberations very seriously and followed the law to the letter,” Lutes-Koths said.
Following the acquittal, a relieved Meoli assured jurors they would receive stellar customer service if they were ever to visit his cannabis club, Lutes-Koths said. Meoli faced up to a year in jail if convicted
In a second acquittal Thursday, a jury found 50-year-old Isabel Bracamonte not guilty of misdemeanor battery on a spouse or co-habitant.
It was the second trial for Bracamonte. One year earlier, jurors hung on the charge.
Bracamonte was arrested May 18, 2010 after being involved in a scuffle at the family’s San Francisco home. At the time, Bracamonte’s wife of more than 25 years told police he punched her in the chest, though she did not have any injuries, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Fatima Ortiz. A 911 call placed by the couple’s adult son makes no mention of punching and Bracamonte’s wife changed her story when speaking to inspectors the next day.
Bracamonte, who has no previous arrests for domestic violence or other crimes, maintained the physical altercation was between him and his adult son and that he never hit his wife. It was possible Bracamonte’s wife was inadvertently pushed when she tried to intervene between the two men, Ortiz said.
Since the arrest, Bracamonte had been required to stay away from his family, though he helped support them financially, Ortiz said. Both Bracamonte’s wife and son wanted to reconcile, she said.
Before acquitting Bracamonte, jurors heard testimony from the complaining witness, who said she had been gently pushed, but not punched. They also viewed photographs demonstrating the lack of injuries in the incident.
“This was a family that wanted to be reunited,” Ortiz said. “Being separated after more than two decades due to one unfortunate night was difficult for everyone.”