San Francisco, CA — A woman accused of climbing nine stories up a fire escape in heels to burglarize a high rise apartment was acquitted of felony charges after her attorney argued the predicament was the result of a liaison gone wrong, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated a day before acquitting 36-year-old Tara Lowe on Thursday of first degree residential burglary and grand theft, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carla Gomez. Lowe faced up to 17 years in prison if convicted.
Lowe was convicted only of petty theft, a misdemeanor, and sentenced to time served. She spent a year in San Francisco County Jail, unable to afford bail.
Lowe was arrested June 17, 2015 while stumbling through the Tenderloin, screaming for help. The complaining witness, a 42-year-old man, followed her, relaying her description to police. Officers found jewelry, a wallet, and an iPod belonging to the man’s wife in Lowe’s purse. She was arrested.
Lowe and the complaining witness told police wildly different stories. The man claimed he was making dinner with his dog at his feet when his wife returned home. The dog barked. His wife investigated the sound and found Lowe ducking out the bathroom window. Lowe offered the wife a harried apology—claiming she was locked out while fighting with her boyfriend on the third floor—before descending the fire escape. The husband took the elevator downstairs, where he received a call from his wife alerting him to the stolen items. He pursued Lowe through the streets as she waved a metal pipe threateningly at him, he said.
Lowe told police the man had brought her upstairs for a sexual encounter, and had shoved her out the window when his wife came home unexpectedly.
During the trial, Gomez argued the complaining witness’ account was impossible. Lowe would have had to climb to the ninth floor while intoxicated, dressed in high heels, constricting clothes, and an ankle chain made of jingling bells, then gain entry without burglary tools. Furthermore, Gomez argued argued, it made no sense that a jingling, intoxicated intruder would go unnoticed in the 450-square foot studio apartment by both the man and his dog.
The husband’s allegation that Lowe threw her Vessi waterproof shoes and swung a pipe at him were both proven false by a cell phone video shot by a neighbor who helped pursue Lowe. In addition, the husband described Lowe to the 911 dispatcher as having blue eyes—an attribute he would have been unable to see if his only contact was to trail her through the street.
“The man’s story didn’t make sense on any level, and the jury could not reconcile his account with the evidence,” Gomez said.
Adachi said the case illustrates both the wastefulness and injustice of the bail system, with the city spending a small fortune to keep Lowe in jail for a year for what amounted to petty theft.
“The complaining witness’ story didn’t add up,” Adachi said. “Poor Ms. Lowe was jailed for a year on the basis of an untruth. But thanks to her public defender, investigator, and members of the jury, she is finally free to resume her life.”