More Than 3 Years Later, Man’s Stolen Phone Charge Dismissed After Public Transit Dragnet

By Ella Wade

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On March 21, 2018 “Ms. V” was walking by Yerba Buena Gardens, looking at her phone and enjoying the city, when suddenly her day took a turn for the worse. And it wasn’t just her day that took a turn, but that of Sedric Lane.

Ms. V became a victim that day, and Lane became a suspect.

But, Lane’s charges would be dismissed by the court last Friday here because he didn’t match the description and video evidence was not clear. But he had still been arrested and held.

Back in 2018, Officer Laura Cremen was on duty at SFPD Park Station that day when she received a call about a stolen cell phone. Officer Roger Moore also responded to a call by Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. 

Moore interviewed  Ms. V who explained that she had been walking looking at her phone when it had been taken out of her hands. She said she chased after the person who took her phone for about three blocks before becoming too exhausted to continue. 

Ms. V described the subject as wearing a knee-length black jacket, tan sweater, and blue jeans. Ms. V was only able to see the back of the person and so was unable to give any description about the physiognomy of the person she was chasing.

Ms. V gave the DOC information to track their phone. The phone was tracked to numerous locations. The police eventually determined that the phone must be on a Muni bus. At a bus stop on Fulton and Loyola Street, officers, accompanied by Ms. V, stopped a Muni bus and retrieved the phone.  

The hearing took place Friday at the San Francisco Hall of Justice Dept. 9. Assistant District Attorney Matt Donahue called officers to the stand, and submitted three pieces of evidence. 

The prosecution’s Exhibit 1 was the security footage from the Muni bus where the phone was found. Exhibits 2 and 3 were stills of the security tape from before the portion that is Exhibit 1.

The portion of Exhibit 1 that was submitted started at 15:52:44 and played to 15:56:52. In this video, one can see the rear door of a standard San Francisco Muni bus. People are people sitting in almost every seat and many standing. 

Lane, a young man wearing a black sweatshirt and blue jeans is standing by the door. The video shows around three or four officers entering the bus, they look around the exit and repeat this process a couple more times. 

Lane respectfully moves out of the officers’ way many times and at one point appears to be pointing outside of the bus explaining something to the officers, but it was unclear. At another point, Lane appears to raise his hands (around 15:53:30), but the video shoots at 1 frame per second so it is difficult to discern what occurred.  

Exhibit 2 was a photograph of a male subject (Lane), and Exhibit 3 was five pages of photo stills of the subject allegedly placing the victim’s phone down on the seats where it was later found.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Donahue alleged that Lane had a phone in his hand, and at one point in the video reaches back. When his hand returns to his side it is without a phone. Around five minutes later the stolen phone was found a couple of feet behind Lane, near where he reached.

During cross-examination of Officer Cremen, Public Defender Martina Avalos asked whether Officer Cremen or anyone else had seen Lane place the phone down. The defense explained that Sedric Lane did not match the description of the person who had stolen the phone. 

The court ruled, because the video evidence was not clear enough, “the [prosecution has] not met their burden of showing probable cause for Counts 1 and 2 of the complaint,” the matter was dismissed.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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