SAN FRANCISCO, CA – U.S. military veteran George Kennedy was found not guilty of two felony assault charges – alleged attacks on a tourist and a jogger – Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court after a jury “understood (he) was not conscious” and suffering a mental health crisis, according to the Public Defender Office.
The jury took more than a day before finding the veteran not guilty on the felonies although it did deliver a guilty verdict on a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. Kennedy was released for time served – he’s spent about 14 months in jail awaiting trial.
“This was a very difficult and sad case. Clearly, Mr. Kennedy suffers from serious mental health issues and did not have the awareness and intent that the law requires for a criminal conviction. This case is a prime example of how the criminal legal system is not designed to solve our public health and safety problems,” said Public Defender Mano Raju.
“I commend our defense team who worked hard and skillfully to secure not guilty verdicts and avoid further incarceration for someone who is seriously ill,” Raju added, noting Deputy Public Defender Martina Avalos presented expert testimony to explain the defendant was having an “acute psychotic episode that rendered him unconscious, which meant that he was not criminally culpable.”
Kennedy was arrested for two consecutive incidents in February 2020 on the Embarcadero, and charged with attacking a jogger and tourist. Kennedy was, according to a statement by the PD office, “immediately evaluated by Jail Health Services who flagged him for psychiatric treatment and ruled out drugs as a source of the psychosis.”
PD Avalos said, “The jury understood that Mr. Kennedy was not conscious when these troubling incidents occurred. Cases like this are uncomfortable for all of us who care about the health and safety of our communities, but this case reminds us that criminal court is not the appropriate venue to address mental illness.
“Prison was never going to be the solution to Mr. Kennedy’s mental illness. Now, he can continue to get the medical care he needs through his full coverage with the Veterans Administration,” said Avalos.
Expert witnesses testified about Kennedy’s diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, about what happens to the brain during an acute psychotic break, and Kennedy’s condition in jail for more than a year.
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