Matthew Grillone, 35, was charged with misdemeanor hit and run in connection with a Sept. 14, 2011 incident in which an elderly woman with a cane was run down by a bicyclist, Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte said in a statement. He was acquitted, however, after defense attorneys persuaded jurors that police might have arrested the wrong man.
"This was a classic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time," Rivamonte said. "The only reason that Mr. Grillone was arrested was because he was wearing an orange Giants jersey and riding his bicycle close to where the incident happened."
The cyclist, who allegedly ran a red light at Fourth and Market streets, was described as wearing an orange San Francisco Giants jersey, a bicycle helmet and sunglasses. A good Samaritan attempted to chase him down, but he escaped.
The woman was not seriously injured.
Grillone was arrested at Fifth and Market streets a short time later while waiting for a light, after police determined that he matched the description of the cyclist. He was wearing an orange jersey at the time.
However, during his four-day trial, Rivamonte argued that the jerseys are common, especially on a game day, and noted that Grillone was not wearing a helmet or sunglasses, as described by witnesses. In addition, he was wearing a large backpack, which no witnesses could confirm seeing on the cyclist involved in the incident.
Neither the witnesses nor the victim identified Grillone as the perpetrator, said Rivamonte.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before reaching a not guilty verdict Thursday afternoon.
The verdict comes as San Francisco prosecutors continue to weigh charges against cyclist Chris Bucchere in connection with a March 29 fatal collision. Witnesses told police that Bucchere ran a red light at Market and Castro streets and struck 71-year-old Sutchi Hui, who was walking east in a crosswalk.
Hui died at the hospital days later. District Attorney George Gascon said at the end of April that his office plans to file charges, but has not indicated whether the case will be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor.