Homeless man acquitted of robbery, threat charges in theft at Bakersfield Target

Crime Watch

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — When Mohammad Ali entered the Target on Stockdale Highway in July, he had every intention of stealing.

He brought a pair of scissors with him and cut cellphones free from the pegs to which they were attached. Ali, who is homeless, planned to sell them on the street to support himself.

Ali admitted to that.

But he denied brandishing the scissors at a loss prevention officer and threatening to kill him, allegations that had the 31-year-old facing 15 years in prison.

On Wednesday, a jury that listened to evidence presented during a day-and-a-half trial acquitted Ali of exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a firearm and making terroristic threats. Jurors also found him not guilty of robbery, instead convicting him of petty theft, plus a resisting arrest charge for refusing to stop when police ordered him.

“It was spectacular,” Ali’s public defender, Jano Mattaeo, said of the verdict.

“I was very happy for him. The jurors saw it exactly the way I presented it to them,” Mattaeo said.

Prosecutor Pedro Naveiras could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mattaeo said Ali walked into the Target on July 15 and was spotted on camera by a loss prevention officer trying to remove a cellphone. The officer testified he approached Ali and said, “Don’t do it.”

Ali didn’t listen. He took two cellphones and began walking away.

The loss prevention officer testified he followed and Ali turned around and brandished the scissors at him and said, “I’ll (expletive) kill you,” Mattaeo said.

Ali left the store and was contacted by police. He at first refused to stop but was eventually taken into custody and the cellphones were recovered, Mattaeo said.

Ali has a criminal history, one that played into the steep sentence he faced for a $160 theft, Mattaeo said. But those past contacts with law enforcement had nothing to do with the theft case and weren’t discussed at trial, he said.

Surveillance cameras captured Ali stealing the items and the loss prevention officer approaching him. But, Mattaeo said, there was no footage of Ali holding the scissors in a threatening manner or otherwise acting aggressively toward the officer.

The loss prevention officer testified the threat occurred in an area not covered by cameras, something Mattaeo said the jurors found hard to believe.

“The jurors followed the law, looked at the facts and made an independent determination within 30 minutes that there is insufficient evidentiary proof that Mr. Ali committed robbery, criminal threats or brandishing of a deadly weapon,” Mattaeo said.

Ali is scheduled for sentencing Monday on the petty theft and resisting a peace officer convictions. Mattaeo said he expects him to be sentenced to time served and released.

“The verdict preserves the integrity of the judicial system and jury service,” the attorney said.

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