San Francisco, CA — A jilted fiancé facing more than seven years in prison following a night that included grappling with a former Marine and being doused with bear repellent was acquitted of all felony charges, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated three hours Thursday before finding San Francisco resident Christopher Hall, 31, not guilty of two felonies: first degree burglary with the intent to commit assault and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. Hall was convicted of one count of misdemeanor vandalism, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets.
Hall was arrested March 25, 2013 after a chaotic and confusing night after he and his 34-year-old fiancée broke off their engagement. Hall had moved into the woman’s Portola neighborhood home shortly after the pair met in a hacky sack circle Feb. 1. Less than two weeks into the whirlwind romance, the couple bought rings and announced their plans to marry.
The relationship quickly turned tumultuous, and after a series of arguments in March, they broke up. Hall, with nowhere to go, took some of his belongings and stashed them in a tree at nearby McLaren Park. That evening, he climbed the tree and attempted to sleep, but became too cold. He returned to the home they shared, but his former fiancée was not home. Cold and tired, Hall curled up under a tarp under the woman’s backyard bushes.
The woman, who had been at the movies, arrived home at approximately 10 p.m. She was accompanied by a new male friend, who happened to be a former Marine with extensive combat training.
While chatting in the kitchen, the two heard noises coming from the backyard and decided to investigate. The woman armed herself with a knife while her male friend grabbed a frying pan. Upon hearing their voices, Hall sat up and looked at them. The woman screamed and ran back into her house with her friend. Hall ran after them, yelling for them to wait. As the woman closed and locked the door in Hall’s face, his hand went through the window pane. Hall unlocked the door and grabbed the woman’s friend, demanding to know his identity. The man fell backward and a 90-second scuffle ensued. The male friend claimed Hall choked him by putting him in a headlock before the former Marine gained the upper hand and subdued Hall, encouraging him to take deep breaths and relax.
During the struggle, the woman had run to a neighbor’s house for help, claiming Hall was going to kill her friend. The neighbor ran out of his house shirtless and armed with an aerosol can of bear repellent. The woman and her neighbor burst into the home, where Hall and the former Marine were now sitting calmly together and talking. Hall was escorted outside, where he kicked the door. The woman’s neighbor then cracked open the door and sprayed Hall in the face with bear repellent. Hall admitted he then picked up a rock and hurled it at the door, causing a dent, before leaving. He was arrested several hours later.
During the three day trial, jurors heard testimony from Hall, his former fiancée, the male friend and the neighbor. Hall’s mother and grandmother testified as character witnesses, describing Hall’s peaceful nature.
The jurors did not find Hall’s former fiancée to be credible, Streets said. Additionally, the three witnesses provided inconsistent statements about the night and the former Marine appeared to suffer no injuries from his scuffle with Mr. Hall.
“There was no doubt Mr. Hall had a terrible night, but this case was grossly overcharged. You cannot commit a burglary if you have the right to be in a building. Mr. Hall had paid rent, made improvements to the house and still had some of his belongings inside,” Streets said.
Adachi said he was pleased that Hall will now be able to move on with his life.
“Mr. Hall’s history is that of a law abiding citizen, yet he was facing more than seven years in state prison,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, his public defender was able to show the jury that despite some strong emotions and minor vandalism, no real crime was committed.”