Monday, February 11, 2013 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A 22-year-old sandwich shop employee accused of tackling and groping a female customer nearly a year ago has been acquitted of sexual assault charges following his second trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors on Friday afternoon found John Loren not guilty of assault with attempt to commit penetration by a foreign object, sexual battery, and attempted penetration by a foreign object—charges that could have sent him to state prison for 11 years. The foreign object refers to Loren’s fingers, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Qiana Washington.
Loren was convicted of simple battery, a nonsexual misdemeanor, and sentenced to time served. He was released Friday from San Francisco County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest on Feb. 23, 2012. The maximum sentence on a simple battery charge is six months in jail.
Loren’s first trial ended Oct. 11, 2012 after jurors failed to reach a verdict. In that trial, jurors hung 11-1 for acquittal on the sexual assault charges and 10-2 for acquittal on the battery charge, Washington said.
Loren, a recent immigrant from the Philippines, was working at a 24-hour Subway sandwich shop on Market and 9th Streets when an 18-year-old female customer attempted to purchase cookies at 4 a.m. After two of her credit cards were declined, the customer, who didn’t have cash, asked Loren where she could find an ATM. The woman testified that Loren walked her outside to help her locate a cash machine, then shook her hand and pulled her toward him.
The customer told police that Loren then tackled her, pinning her onto the Market Street sidewalk with a single leg, groping her breast and attempting to jab his fingers into her vagina through the fabric of her pants. She testified that Loren was covering her mouth with one hand during the course of the attack.
Loren maintained that after walking the woman outside, the two began chatting. He asked permission to kiss her and she declined, offering a hug instead. When Loren moved to embrace the customer, she pulled away and lost her footing. Loren, who is 5 feet tall and 109 pounds, unsuccessfully tried to catch the woman, who is 5 feet 1 inch tall and 140 pounds. The two toppled to the ground. Loren told police that if he grabbed the woman or touched her inappropriately, it was a result of the fall.
A passing motorist and his passenger who stopped to assist testified they did not see the sexual assault. The driver testified that he had identified Loren to police as the suspect through “process of elimination.”
Ultimately, the jury found that the customer’s story didn’t add up, Washington said.
“A lot of things she described didn’t make physical sense,” Washington said. “She testified that this extremely small young man held her down with one leg draped across her body, all the while propping himself up on one elbow and holding her mouth closed.”
The jury would also have to believe that Loren, who had no criminal history of any kind, brazenly attacked a stranger on Market Street mere feet from several bystanders, Washington said.
There were also contradictions between the complaining witness’ statements on the stand and postings she made online, Washington said. The customer also produced a photo of a bruise on her breast months after the incident, which was in a different area than she initially described to police.
Washington said the jury was extremely conscientious, looking critically at each aspect of the case.
“We assume that when someone makes an allegation of sexual assault, it must be true – but what if it isn’t? We were fortunate enough to get two sets of jurors that were able to overcome these assumptions and get through the allegations to reach a just verdict,” she said.
Adachi said his office tried to convince prosecutors that a retrial in the case would be waste of resources.
“The district attorney refused to dismiss this case after the first trial, even though 11 jurors voted to acquit Mr. Loren. Fortunately, Mr. Loren’s public defender refused to give up until she won an acquittal,” Adachi said.