San Francisco, CA — A man accused of exposing himself on a San Francisco-bound BART train was acquitted after his attorney argued police had the wrong man, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jury members deliberated less than an hour Tuesday afternoon before finding San Francisco resident Carlos Law, 39, not guilty of one count of misdemeanor indecent exposure. If convicted, he faced lifetime registration as a sex offender, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender JP Visaya.
Law’s trouble began June 16 at 11:30 p.m., when a 26-year-old woman sleeping on a nearly empty BART car awoke in the Transbay Tube to a man waving a phone at her from his seat across the aisle. The woman, who was wearing headphones, could not hear the man, but assumed he was trying to sell her the phone. The passenger told the man to leave her alone and ignored him. Several minutes later, she looked over to see him slumped in his seat against the window. The man appeared to be giggling and masturbating, she said.
When the woman stood up and yelled a profanity at the man, he quickly zipped his pants and scurried to the next car. Meanwhile, the woman called the train operator from the intercom. Police were waiting when the train arrived at Powell Station.
The woman identified Law, who was among 10 passengers in the adjacent car, as the man who exposed himself. BART police immediately led Law off the train, where he was cited.
During the one-day trial, both Law and the complaining witness took the stand. The woman insisted that Law was the man she saw, and Law denied exposing himself or ever seeing the woman. Law testified that he never left his BART car during his trip across the Bay.
Jurors were troubled by BART police officers’ lack of investigation in the case, Visaya said. Officers did not talk to any of the witnesses on Law’s train, nor did they bother to find out whether surveillance footage was available on his car, although they checked for surveillance on the complaining witness’s car immediately. About 35 percent of BART cars are equipped with cameras and footage is purged after about 72 hours, Visaya said. The car where the alleged crime occurred did not have a camera installed.
During the trial, Visaya produced the BART Police policy manual, which states officers are required to look for material evidence and facts after a crime.
“Solid and thorough police work leaves no room for doubt,” Visaya said. “That was not what we had here.”
Adachi said BART officers owed both the female passenger and Mr. Law a thorough investigation.
“BART officers failed to take the most basic steps to ensure they had the right person,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, justice was served when the jury recognized there was no solid evidence to convict Mr. Law.”