San Francisco—A man accused of breaking into his adopted brother’s apartment has been acquitted of all charges following a jury trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated more than two days before finding 47-year-old Sang Hong not guilty of first degree residential burglary with a hot prowl allegation. Hong faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Yali Corea-Levy.
When Hong was a child in Vietnam, his parents took in a boy orphaned by the war and raised him as their own. The brothers eventually immigrated to San Francisco. Hong’s brother married and had two daughters, while Hong, a cook, struggled with unemployment and homelessness.
At the time of the incident, Hong was living in the boiler room of his brother’s Post Street apartment building. His brother would allow him to shower, keep clothes and receive mail at his apartment. But Hong, who would knock on the door both day and night, had become a nuisance to his brother’s wife and two teenage daughters, Corea-Levy said.
On July 21, Hong slipped into his brother’s apartment through the bathroom window to use the toilet, unaware his two nieces were home. The elder sister, 18, called her mother, who called 911.
When police arrived, the girl told officers that Hong appeared to be looking for money on a shelf. She also distanced herself from her uncle, telling police he was a friend of her father’s whom she had never met in person. Police arrested Hong in the boiler room.
During the trial, however, the girl testified that the family never kept money on the shelf. Instead, it contained an altar devoted to Hong’s late parents. She also testified she would be happy if she never saw Hong again.
Corea-Levy said the case was one of strained family relations, not criminal conduct.
“For Mr. Hong, this was his family and the closest thing to an address to call his own,” Corea-Levy said. “For his brother’s wife and children, Mr. Hong’s neediness had become intolerable and they wanted to get rid of him by any means necessary.”
While Hong did not have permission to enter the apartment while his brother was away, jurors determined he did not have the intent to steal and acquitted him of burglary.
Adachi said the case was outrageously overcharged.
“It’s unfathomable that Mr. Hong was facing years in prison for entering his brother’s apartment without permission in order to use the bathroom,” Adachi said. “Fortunately, his public defender was able to bring the truth to light.”