San Francisco, CA — A homeless man was freed from jail after a jury acquitted him of assaulting two museum employees with a metal rod used to collect recycling, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
A jury on Thursday found 41-year-old Luis English not guilty of assault with a weapon with force likely to cause great bodily injury, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Bonnie Chan. English was convicted of misdemeanor brandishing, and sentenced to time served, along with probation. All fines and fees were suspended in the interest of justice, and the judge did not grant a stay away order, since English sleeps in the area where the incident occurred.
English, who has been homeless since he came to San Francisco in 1989 from Florida, collects recycling daily along the city’s piers. Many employees of businesses in the area, including the Exploratorium, save their bottles and cans for English, Chan said.
On July 29, police were called to an alley near Pier 19 after two Exploratorium employees on their lunch hour called police. The men stated English overheard one of them saying they were tired of his presence, and took offense. They alleged that English threw a bottle in their direction, then pursued them. One of the men told police English lunged and swung at him repeatedly with his metal pick-up tool, missing him every time. When English fled, they followed him.
During the trial, however, English took the stand and recounted a much different story. English, who had been beaten in the middle of the night the week prior to his arrest, had just finished eating his Meals on Wheels lunch when the two men approached. When one of them falsely accused English of being a drug addict and using The Urinator review products to hide his addiction, English told them to leave him alone. When the men, who each stood nearly a foot taller than English, did not immediately retreat, a frightened English waved his metal pick-up tool in front of him in self-defense. When he then tried to get away from the men, they pursued him, he told the jury.
Chan argued that English was the victim of discrimination fueled by stereotypes.
“Mr. English has been bullied and harassed his whole life for not fitting in. He was a nobody to these men. They assumed he was less than human based on the way he looks and the fact that he goes through Dumpsters. They used his weakness against him and made up an exaggerated story to get him out of the area,” Chan said.
A police officer who took the stand said that he has long known English to be cooperative and testified he has never seen the homeless man being physically or verbally abusive.
English wept with relief when he was found not guilty of the main charge in the case, Chan said.
Adachi said that the trial process was empowering for English.
“Mr. English is used to being judged, but unaccustomed to being heard. In this case, he had a jury who really listened, and a public defender who saw his humanity and fought hard for him,” Adachi said.