San Francisco, CA — A man charged with stealing a laptop computer after a bloody fistfight was acquitted of all charges following a jury trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jury members deliberated less than a day before reaching a verdict Thursday afternoon, acquitting David Gantt, 47, of robbery, burglary and receiving stolen property, said Gantt’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris.
“The astounding thing about this case was that it went to trial,” Harris said. “Two out of three witnesses — including the robbery victim himself – said they didn’t believe Mr. Gantt was the man who committed these crimes.”
On April 20, 2011 a San Bruno man was returning from lunch in the Tenderloin to discover his car had been burglarized and spotted a man rifling through the backpack he had left in the vehicle. He confronted the man and the two fought. During the struggle, the laptop fell out of the backpack and the bloodied thief picked it up and ran. An eyewitness trailed him to a residential hotel two blocks away and called police.
Gantt, who lived in the hotel with his wife, was leaving on his bicycle when the man — an acquaintance from the building — asked him to help him sell a laptop he no longer needed. Gantt took him up on the offer, and left the hotel only to be detained by police.
The robbery victim told police he did not believe Gantt was the man who robbed him and one of the two independent witnesses agreed. The other witness said he believed Gantt was the robber.
Gantt was not bleeding or injured and was wearing different clothing than those described in the robbery. Police, believing he may have quickly changed, searched his room but did not find the any clothing matching witnesses’ descriptions, nor the laptop’s case which was also taken in the robbery.
“At that point the police just stopped investigating,” Harris said.
During the five day trial, the victim and two eyewitnesses took the stand. The victim and one of the witnesses still did not identify Gantt as the laptop thief. The second witness fingered Gantt as the robber but could remember little else about the incident, Harris said.
In the end, “jurors just didn’t see the logic of convicting a man when two out of three witnesses agree he is not the right person,” Harris said.
Adachi said he also found it strange that the case went to a jury trial.
“Mr. Gantt had already been exonerated by an independent witness and the robbery victim. Fortunately, we were able to prove his innocence, but the real tragedy is that he spent more than a year in jail,” he said.