Accused Spends 340 Days in Jail before Jury Acquits Him – SF Public Defenders Charge Police ‘Misrepresented’ Facts

San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by David M. Greenwald

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – An accused who had to spend nearly a year in jail before getting to trial was acquitted by a jury here last week on all charges in San Francisco County Superior Court, according to a statement issued by the San Francisco Public Defenders Office.

The jury found Muhammed Abdullah, 21, not guilty of battery, theft, assault and hate crime charges as a result of an incident in the Castro District in June 2023.

Abdullah, who has no prior criminal record, walked free after 340 days behind bars after the jury  heard 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,” said the PD Office.

“The jury also considered expert testimony that Abdullah was in the midst of a mental health crisis,” added the public defenders.

The SF Public Defender statement said, “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,” added the defense statement, “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 called by the defense said 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.”

The defense added that “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 Deputy Public Defender Deborah Awolope.

The defense said 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.”

The defense added, “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 plan for his future 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 SF Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement, who cross-examined 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,” added Raju.

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