FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2024
MEDIA CONTACT: PDR-MediaRelations@sfgov.org
SF Jury Acquits Man Wrongly Accused of Commercial Burglary and Possession of Stolen Property
SAN FRANCISCO – On Jan. 24, a San Francisco jury found David Wesser, 37, not guilty of felony charges related to a commercial burglary that took place in July. Deputy Public Defender Christopher Garcia argued that police carried out an incomplete investigation that was riddled with confirmation bias, and ignored the fact that the evidence did not support the allegations against Wesser, who has maintained his innocence and had an alibi.
“As soon as police had it in mind that Mr. Wesser was involved in the incident, they neglected to investigate any further and ignored all evidence contrary to their erroneous theory,” said Garcia.
On the morning of July 22, 2023, three individuals burglarized the San Francisco office of the game company Ubisoft on 3rd Street. Police retrieved a surveillance video of the break-in and later that day spotted some of the stolen property on a sidewalk several blocks away. Wesser was sitting nearby in clothes that resembled those of one of the people in the video of the burglary. Wesser denied being involved in the burglary and asserted that the property nearby did not belong to him. He encouraged the officers to obtain video surveillance from the surrounding buildings to confirm that he had just arrived on the sidewalk after being with his girlfriend all night and morning. Body-worn camera footage showed that officers lied to Wesser, telling him that those cameras were off, but later talked to each other about retrieving footage from those cameras, which they never did.
During the trial, the prosecution relied on the video of the break-in and on officer testimony, as the police had not collected any fingerprints, DNA, or other forensic evidence from the Ubisoft office or the stolen property. When the arresting officer was testifying for the prosecution, he pointed out many details about the suspect’s clothing to try to show that the person in the video was Wesser. However, under cross-examination, the defense pointed out that the person in the video did not appear to have a tattoo whereas Wesser does. When confronted with this observation, the officer then tried to claim that the video wasn’t very clear.
Wesser said he has experienced increased harassment from police since 2019, when plainclothes sheriff’s deputies broke down his apartment door with a battering ram and fatally shot his service dog, Ruby. Deputies had stormed his apartment while trying to serve a bench warrant because Wesser had missed a court date. One of the bullets went through Wesser’s hand as he was trying to hold back Ruby, who was barking at the intruders.
“I am proud of the defense team for their keen attention to detail in a case that could have led to a wrongful conviction of Mr. Wesser, and I am grateful to the jury for returning this verdict,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “While circumstantial evidence can play an important role in many cases, what we saw here was police who neglected to complete an investigation that could have eliminated Mr. Wesser as a suspect.”
The defense team included Deputy Public Defender Christopher Garcia, Paralegal Susan Larsen, and the Public Defender’s Office Investigation Unit.