San Francisco, CA — A disabled man who armed himself with a kitchen knife to ward off local toughs has been cleared of criminal charges after jurors determined carrying the weapon was vital to maintaining his safety, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors on Thursday found Timothy Williams, 47, not guilty of concealing a dirk or dagger. If convicted, Williams faced up to a year in county jail, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender J.P. Visaya.
Williams, who has difficulty walking due to a back injury, had dropped off a prescription at a drugstore at 16th and Mission streets when he was surrounded by several young men who had been hanging out at the adjacent BART station. The men attempted to intimidate Williams, warning him not to return to the area.
Two days later, on Jan. 28, the pharmacist called Williams to pick up his prescription. Fearing being menaced again, Williams brought a friend and packed a long kitchen knife. He successfully retrieved his medication, but was spotted by the group while walking slowly from the drug store. When one of the younger men threatened Williams with a golf club, Williams pulled out his knife. In response, the group retreated.
Meanwhile, a woman who witnessed the exchange called 911. Officers responded and arrested Williams. The men who threatened him fled.
Williams took the stand during the trial, testifying that he faced a conundrum—needing his medication while fearing for his safety if he returned to the drugstore. He was unable to run from an attacker, and packed the knife so he would not be defenseless.
“The jurors found Mr. Williams to be honest and likable,” Visaya said. “They refused to convict him because they didn’t believe he should be punished for protecting himself.”
Adachi praised the work of Visaya and the 12 jurors who acquitted Williams.
“Mr. Williams needed protection, not punishment. Fortunately, he had public defender who rightly believes that the law should be a shield rather than a sword, and a jury who listened to him even when law enforcement would not,” Adachi said.