San Francisco, CA — A man whose classic car collection set off a parking war with his Glen Park neighbors was found not guilty of criminal threats, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors in the trial of William Kaiser, 64, deliberated for under an hour Thursday afternoon before finding him not guilty of misdemeanor criminal threats, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray. If convicted, Kaiser faced up to a year in jail.
Kaiser is known around the neighborhood as “The Car Guy” due to his 15 vintage cars, some of which he parks on the street, Pray said. Kaiser’s neighborhood is one of the few areas in the city that offers free on-street parking and does not require residential parking permits.
Kaiser’s troubles began approximately two years ago, when his neighbor told him he was fed up with Kaiser’s cars taking up so much space and was working with the city to change the way Chenery Street parking was regulated. The revelation set off a bitter feud between the two men, who had been friends for 13 years, Pray said.
Over the next two years, Kaiser argued frequently with the man and the man’s husband, with both sides threatening to call the police.
On Aug. 26, Kaiser approached the neighbor’s husband to talk about a confrontation he and the neighbor had a day earlier, in which the neighbor threatened to report Kaiser for trespassing after Kaiser looked through a box of discarded books the neighbor had placed on the sidewalk. Kaiser told the man’s husband he was going to call the police as well because he believed the neighbor had aimed his car at him.
After a heated exchange, the man’s husband accused Kaiser of harassment and told him to leave or he would call the police. Kaiser left and the neighbor’s husband never called the authorities.
However, police were called by a female neighbor who overheard the argument from her window approximately 15 feet away. When officers arrived, she told them that Kaiser had twice threatened to kill the man. However, when police questioned the man, he said he didn’t hear any death threats despite being 3 to 5 feet away from Kaiser during their exchange.
During the one-day trial, Kaiser took the stand as well as the neighbor, his husband and the woman who called the police.
“The only explanation the prosecution could offer as to how the complaining witness wouldn’t have heard a death threat shouted by a person standing so close to him was through the onset of ‘hysterical deafness.’ However, the existence of such a syndrome was not established in evidence, and the jury couldn’t rely on it in reaching their verdict,” Pray said.
Adachi said the jury made the right decision.
“There is no doubt that things were volatile between these neighbors, but there was no evidence that Mr. Kaiser committed a crime,” Adachi said.