After a week-long trial, 26-year-old Ronnie Morrisette was acquitted of robbery, assault, false imprisonment and four other charges in connection with the theft of an iPhone on a Muni bus this summer. If convicted, he faced up to six years in state prison.
According to a press release from San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s office, Morrisette was standing on the stairs of the 14-Mission Muni bus on Aug. 11 at about 2 a.m. when the theft took place.
As the bus approached the stop at Ninth and Mission Streets, an unidentified young man grabbed an iPhone out of passenger Rebecca Olarte’s hands and ran out. On his way out of the bus, the man bumped into Morrisette, knocking Morrisette’s phone and iPod to the ground.
Adachi said that Olarte ran after the thief and crashed into Morrisette, who was picking up his items.
In the confusion, Olarte went to grab Morrisette’s phone and iPod. Thinking that Olarte was stealing his items, he struggled to get them back.
According to the public defender’s office, Olarte testified that Morrisette said something to her during the struggle, but couldn’t remember what. She also admitted to having been intoxicated that night.
Despite attempts to reach Olarte, Mission Loc@l wasn’t able to get in touch with her.
Witnesses then testified that Morrisette was sharing drinks and talking to people on the bus, but there was no evidence that Morrisette ever spoke to the thief.
Public Defender Investigator Jill Schroeder testified that when she got Morrisette’s property back from jail, it included headphones, a cellphone charger and an iPod charger, proving he did have these items.
“Ronnie was a student at Wyotech College studying to be a motorcycle technician when he was wrongly arrested in connection with the theft of Ms. Olarte’s iPhone on Muni,” his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Peter Santina, said. “Ronnie didn’t know the thief who took Ms. Olarte’s phone and had nothing to do with it. But because he was young and black, just like the thief, Ronnie was accused of involvement.”
“After three months of sitting in jail, waiting for justice, an innocent man was finally vindicated by the jury and granted his freedom. Ronnie, his family and his 7-year-old daughter are greatly relieved.”
“This case shows how easy it is for an innocent person to find themselves charged with a crime,” Adachi said.