San Francisco, CA – John M., 23 years old, was acquitted yesterday of robbery and aggravated assault with great bodily harm stemming from an incident in which he was accused of physically attacking and turning his dog on the complaining witness, Adam McFarland. Each count constituted a strike, and the charges carried a potential sentence of 16 years in prison.
The incident occurred on September 6, 2007 at around midnight near the intersection of Powell and O’Farrell Streets. John M., who testified on his own behalf, said that he was walking his dog when he approached two acquaintances who were arguing with McFarland. John M.said that his acquaintances accused McFarland of robbing them. McFarland fled, followed by the other individuals. John M.’s dog broke loose during the commotion and attacked McFarland. A barefoot John M. ran after the dog and successfully restrained it.
However, Lieutenant Kitt Crenshaw, a 30-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, testified that he was on his coffee break when he saw McFarland being chased and then bitten repeatedly by the dog. He also testified that John and one other individual then attacked McFarland and robbed him of his wallet before he pulled his gun and initiated the arrest. According to Lieutenant Crenshaw, the accomplice ran away and was never identified.
The jury found John M.’s testimony more credible, noting that Lieutenant Crenshaw’s statements at the time of the incident and during the preliminary hearing differed from his testimony at trial. The jury also did not understand how the defendant could have simultaneously kicked the complaining witness and restrained the irate dog. The jury also noted that Lieutenant Crenshaw embellished his own testimony, first saying the he saw the defendant release the dog and then recanting.
McFarland, who also testified, admitted on the stand to being drunk at the time of the incident. He could not remember what provoked the attack, but he did testify to being attacked by African American men. John M. is white.
“How is it that someone who has never been in trouble his entire life can find himself in a situation where he is facing 16 years in prison,” asks John M.’s attorney Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement. “He was accused of chasing down, kicking, and robbing someone, while successfully restraining an angry dog, all the time with barefeet. I am satisfied that the jury was able to see the truth in this case helping to set this young man free. If your looking for legal help with a dog attack please contact a Dog Bite Lawyer such as Batta Fulkerson.”
Attorney Kyle Shriner, a senior associate at Holme, Roberts & Owen and participant in the Public Defender Loaner Program, 2nd chaired the case.
John M. had only lived in San Francisco for one and a half months before the incident occurred. His parents drove from rural Virginia to be at his trial and his mother testified to his non-violent nature. Animal Control released the dog to John M.’s relatives on December 1.
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.