San Francisco, CA – On Wednesday, November 19, Redai Meresa was found not guilty of misdemeanor grand theft after 40 minutes of jury deliberation.
After working his typical ten hour day, Redai Meresa was headed home when he attempted to help a seemingly poor, homeless man with an alcohol problem. The man had $30 protruding from his left breast pocket. Mr. Meresa believed that the man needed assistance and warned him, “Your money . . . you shouldn’t drink so much.” The man grunted and did not put his money away. Mr. Meresa repeated, “Your money, your money.” Suddenly, the apparently intoxicated man pushed Mr. Meresa away and Mr. Meresa instinctively pushed back. Four cops then swept in and arrested Mr. Meresa.
The ostensibly drunk man in tattered clothing with money dangling from his pocket was undercover San Francisco Police Officer John Conway – the lead officer in the Robbery Abatement Team’s (RAT) decoy operation. The $30 hanging from Officer Conway’s pocket was meant to serve as bait to trap potential thieves and pickpockets. In typical fashion, RAT conducted its operation on the corner of Turk and Taylor Streets, in front of the Oshun House homeless shelter.
Mr. Meresa was represented by Deputy Public Defender Sandy Feinland. If convicted, he faced up to one year in county jail. According to Deputy Public Defender Feinland, after trial several jurors expressed disgust with the waste of resources dedicated to the practice of RAT stings. Officer Conway was one of twelve officers involved in the RAT operation; the other eleven stood nearby waiting to make an arrest. “Overtime is available,” Officer Conway testified. He made $148,000 last year, $44,000 in overtime.
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.