A man who was arrested for violating a stay-away order that he thought had expired was acquitted, Public Defender Manohar Raju has announced.

Charles Thomas, 65, faced up to six months in jail for accidently knocking on the door of an ex-neighbor that he had been in conflict with and who had taken out a stay-away order on him, Deputy Public Defender Prya Murad said. Originally, Thomas lived across the hallway from the other resident on the third floor, but moved to the fourth floor to avoid her.

Thomas, who is elderly and suffers from medical issues, testified that he relied heavily on his social worker to assist him with many of his personal affairs. He told the jury that she informed him that his stay-away order had expired and that he thought it was safe to go back on the third floor to call down to someone in the lobby . Due to his medical conditions, he testified, he accidently knocked on the door of his previous neighbor, who then called the police.

“This was a ‘mistake of fact’ case,” said Murad. “If you do something that you believe is reasonably a mistake, you cannot be penalized for it, under the law.”

Initially, Mr. Thomas wasn’t even present at the stay-away proceedings and did not understand the process or what was happening, the jury learned.

It took the jury just 15 minutes to acquit him, Murad said.

“This case should never even have been prosecuted,” said Murad. “It was a simple misunderstanding that was not his fault. He was adamant from the beginning that he should not be punished for it and he’s very happy to put this all behind him.”