San Francisco, CA — A bicyclist accused of running down an elderly pedestrian and riding away was acquitted of all charges after a jury determined police arrested the wrong man, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jury members deliberated less than a day before reaching a verdict Thursday afternoon, acquitting Matthew Grillone, 35, of misdemeanor hit and run, said his attorney Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte.
“This was a classic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rivamonte said. “The only reason that Mr. Grillone was arrested was because he was wearing an orange Giants jersey and riding his bicycle close to where the incident happened. The witnesses couldn’t identify the man’s face or other key features of the true culprit.”
Grillone, a San Francisco native and Whole Foods cashier, was arrested Sept. 14 while riding home from an employee outing to a Giants game. While waiting at a light on Market and 5th streets he was stopped by police for matching the description of a man accused of a hit and run one block away at Market and 4th streets.
Witnesses told police that a cyclist wearing an orange jersey, sunglasses, and a helmet ran a red light westbound on Market Street and collided into an elderly woman walking with a cane. The cyclist escaped, despite a Good Samaritan who gave chase. The woman was not seriously injured.
During the four day trial, Rivamonte argued that an orange San Francisco Giants jersey is not an uncommon outfit in San Francisco, especially on a game day. Rivamonte further explained that Grillone was not wearing a helmet or sunglasses—two key features that witnesses described in the suspect’s appearance. Grillone was also wearing a large backpack, which was not included in the suspect’s description.
Grillone told the jury he was not involved in the collision. He testified that when stopped by police he was shocked by the accusation and continuously declared his innocence. His supervisor at Whole Foods testified as a character witness and confirmed Grillone’s whereabouts that day and that he is honest and responsible employee.
The victim and three eyewitnesses also took the stand. None could identify the bicycle, the face, and whether or not the cyclist who hit the woman had a backpack.
“After the trial, jurors said there were simply too many missing pieces in the identification to convict Mr. Grillone,” Rivamonte said.
The case was the fourth not guilty verdict secured by public defenders in three days, Adachi said.