This press release was updated at 1:39pm on 5/15/24.




SF Jury Acquits Man Wrongly Charged in Castro Incidents

Muhammed Abdullah spent 340 days in jail and was acquitted of all charges

SAN FRANCISCO – On May 9, a San Francisco jury acquitted Muhammed Abdullah, 21, of charges stemming from two incidents in the Castro District in June 2023. The jury acquitted Abdullah, who had no prior criminal record, of battery, theft, assault, and hate crime allegations after hearing testimony that police misrepresented facts in their report of a June 3 incident that was a case of self-defense and failed to properly investigate a separate June 5 incident. The jury also considered expert testimony that Abdullah was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Deputy Public Defenders Deborah Awolope and Tal Klement represented Abdullah, who spent 340 days in custody.

An SFPD officer admitted in testimony that he had misrepresented the facts in a police report from June 3. The report, and his previous testimony under oath, wrongly stated that Abdullah had attacked someone unprovoked. In fact, it was the other person, offended by a sign Abdullah was carrying, who grabbed Abdullah from behind causing him to defend himself. The jury acquitted Abdullah of battery and of a separate hate crime charge. 

Experts testified that Abdullah was in the midst of a mental health crisis on June 5 when he had another interaction that police wrongly concluded was an assault. On that day, police said that two men thought that Abdullah threw a bottle or another glass object that hit one of their feet from behind. Yet police failed to gather any forensic evidence or available surveillance footage to support that claim. The jury acquitted Abdullah of two felony “Three Strikes”-eligible charges of assault with a deadly weapon and hate crime allegations. The jury also acquitted him of the petty theft of a Pride flag that he was accused of stealing from a flower shop earlier that day. 

“We thank the jury for evaluating the evidence and returning a just verdict, but it is unfortunate that Mr. Abdullah had to endure nearly a year of incarceration leading up to this full acquittal,” said Awolope. The District Attorney and the court rejected an earlier motion to admit Abdullah into a Mental Health Diversion program, which could have helped him access important treatment resources out of custody. Instead, Abdullah spent 340 days in jail with minimal access to treatment. After the jury acquitted him of all charges, he was released from jail late at night with no direct linkage to ongoing mental health treatment. 

“The jury was rightfully critical of the misleading police work and held the state to its burden of proof, which was wholly insufficient in this case,” said Klement, who cross-examined several police officers during the trial. 

“I commend the defense team for uncovering the problems with the state’s claims against Mr. Abdullah, especially as it involved both sensitivities around the civil liberties of our LGBTQ+ community members and the dire need of people with mental health disabilities on our streets,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “All of our communities deserve to live in peace, which is why our office continues to advocate for more preventative resources to help people who are in crisis, rather than ever-increasing funding for the costly and harmful carceral system.”

The defense team included Deputy Public Defenders Awolope and Klement, as well as Investigators Nigel Phillips and Zaki Shaheen, and Paralegal Miluska Sifuentes



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