San Francisco, CA — A man who claimed he was trying to roll up the window of an unattended car was acquitted by a jury Thursday afternoon of felony auto burglary and receiving stolen property, Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Weston Reynolds, 28, of San Francisco, was convicted of a lesser charge, misdemeanor vehicle tampering, following the two-day trial. The jury deliberated two days before reaching its verdict.
Reynolds was arrested Oct. 24, 2009 at 8:45 p.m. at the Performing Arts Garage on Grove Street in Hayes Valley. Prosecutors alleged that Reynolds broke into a 2009 Honda Civic and attempted to steal the warranty, service log and owner’s manual.
During the trial, Reynolds testified that he spotted the unlocked car with its window down in the busy garage and decided to help the owner by securing the vehicle. When he discovered that the car had automatic windows that could not be operated without a key, he took the owner’s manual and other paperwork out of the glove compartment to try to find the owner’s contact information.
Meanwhile, the car’s alarm had sounded three times and the garage security guard responded to investigate.
Reynold’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, said his client panicked when he realized how the scene would be perceived by the security guard.
“He knew it looked bad, so he said it was his aunt’s car,” Streets said. “However, he knew he wasn’t doing anything criminal so he continued to try to find the contact information. He made no attempt to leave.”
While the security guard signaled for his colleague to call the police, Reynolds called the car owner’s emergency roadside assistance number, which he found in the paperwork, to come secure the car. Police arrived moments before Auto Rescue, and arrested Reynolds.
“Through the testimony of my client, police and the security guard, it became clear to the jury that Mr. Reynolds’ actions were not those of a burglar,” Streets said. “He was in a busy garage, he knew there was a security guard on duty, and he continued to try to find the car owner’s contact information even after the alarm sounded and the security guard arrived. Also, I’ve never heard of a burglar calling roadside assistance.”
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the case illustrates that appearances can be deceiving.
“Just because something appears suspicious at first glance doesn’t mean a crime is being committed,” Adachi said. “When the jury understood the story that led up to Mr. Reynold’s arrest, they saw that the intent to steal was never there.”