San Francisco, CA – It took a San Francisco jury 15 minutes to acquit Dale Powers, of Jackson, Calif., of hit and run charges stemming from an accident that he said never occurred.
Nicol Tai, 40, claimed that on July 9, 2007, at approximately, 11:00 p.m., Powers swiped the left side of her 2001 gray Nissan Xterra while they were in traffic on the I-80 East in San Francisco. Tai filed a police report that same night stating the license plate number and a description of Powers’ 2007 red Ford Mustang. A warrant was immediately issued for Powers’ arrest, however no police investigation was ever conducted.
Powers, 47, testified that he had never been involved a car accident. A CARFAX vehicle history report obtained by his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Qiana Washington, revealed that no repairs had ever been made to his Mustang.
However, Washington’s investigation did reveal that Tai had been involved in three car accidents within a 13 month period. CARFAX indicated that Tai was involved another hit and run accident in Alameda under similar circumstances in November 2007. Insurance records revealed that Tai was also involved in an accident in October 2006. Tai’s insurance company has not compensated her for any of these accidents.
While on the stand, Tai first denied ever having been in other accidents. When Washington confronted Tai with the evidence from the CARFAX report and the insurance company, Tai changed her story and admitted to the other two accidents.
“The only ‘victim’ in this case is my client, Dale Powers, who was an unfortunate victim of an insurance scam,” Washington said. “Ms. Tai believed that she could use the criminal justice system to get money out of an innocent man. However, the jury saw right through her false claims. The scary thing about a case like this is that anyone could find themselves in the defendant’s position.”
At trial, the prosecution admitted photos and a video of Powers’ Mustang that Tai claims to have filmed immediately after the incident and while she was still driving. From the photographs, there was no evidence of damage to Powers’ car. There was no evidence of red paint transfer on Tai’s car.
“It was a weak case. No one understood why it was brought,” jury foreperson Allan Basbaum said. “There was no corroborating evidence and plenty of reason to doubt. The public defender hit every one of these points and really drove the case home.”
The trial, which was brought before Judge Julie Tang, lasted two days. The jury delivered its verdict August 11, 2009.
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.