SAN FRANCISCO – A beloved youth football coach with no criminal convictions was found not guilty of gun offenses that could have sent him to state prison for three years, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
San Francisco father and Pop Warner coach Pasha Ali, 34, was acquitted Thursday of a felony charge of carrying a loaded, unregistered gun and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon. The jury deliberated less than three hours before reaching its verdict, said Ali’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris.
Ali was arrested February 19, 2009 at the corner of San Bruno and Silver avenues. Ali, who uses marijuana on a medicinal basis to relieve pain from a chronic hand injury, had stopped at a popular local convenience store to get a sandwich, when he ran into an acquaintance who offered to sell him marijuana. While talking to the man, another man pulled open Ali’s rear car door and offered to sell him a gun. Ali told the stranger he was not interested in buying a gun and seconds later, police pulled up, Harris said.
Both the man selling the marijuana and the man selling the gun took off, with the second man ditching the unregistered firearm in Ali’s back seat. Seeing the police approach and fearing for his safety, Ali quickly shoved the gun into a container in his center console. A subsequent search of Ali’s car turned up the firearm and he was arrested.
During the four-day trial, both Pop Warner football officials and Ali’s mother, a San Francisco Fire Department battalion chief, testified to his history of honest behavior.
“Ultimately, the jury agreed that this is not what we mean when we talk about someone illegally carrying a gun,” Harris said. “Someone dumped the gun on him and he made a split second decision to avoid the officers seeing a gun within reaching distance and perceiving him as a threat. Mr. Ali, in his shock and panic, thought he was doing the right thing at the time. He shouldn’t be branded a felon because of it.”
Adachi said the verdict illustrates that the facts in criminal cases must be carefully examined.
“This case goes to show that things aren’t always as they appear. Fortunately for Mr. Ali, he was able to prove that there was a reasonable explanation for why he had possession of the gun,” he said.