ABC7 I-Team obtains exclusive surveillance video after SF jury finds serial shoplifter guilty

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Saturday, May 4, 2024
San Francisco jury finds serial shoplifter guilty
A jury found serial shoplifter Aziza Graves guilty on 53 counts connected to more than a year of shoplifting at the San Francisco stores.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A jury found a serial shoplifter guilty on 53 counts connected to more than a year of shoplifting at the Stonestown Target and other San Francisco stores.

Before her conviction Friday, Aziza Graves, 42, told the I-Team's Dan Noyes two months ago, "I don't think I should be on trial for anything right now."

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Aziza Graves, accused of shoplifting from a San Francisco Target 120 times, is back in court amid frustrations over judges undercutting prosecutors.

From dozens of trips to Stonestown Target, she stole more than $60,000 worth of merchandise. Late Friday, ABC7 News obtained video evidence from the court file that shows Graves breaking the law.

It's September 23, 2021 - just after noon on a Thursday - the video shows Graves at the Stonestown Target loading her cart with laundry detergent. Investigators told ABC7 that Graves would often steal jugs of detergent that can easily be sold in San Francisco's illegal night markets at UN Plaza.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins told us Friday afternoon, that video and dozens more were crucial to convincing the jury.

"It appears that those jurors were really heavily relying on being able to see what items she was purchasing or pretending to purchase, how she was operating at the self-checkout, and really being able to see the conduct for themselves," Jenkins said.

The jury found Graves guilty of one count of Grand Theft, 52 counts of Petty Theft. Jenkins believes attitudes in the city are changing.

"People should take the message that San Franciscans are going to make sure that there's accountability in our city again, for this type of crime," Jenkins said. "No longer do they view it as low-level crime. That doesn't matter, that when we provide adequate evidence to them that they will convict."

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Dan Noyes: "Could I talk about your case at some point?"

Aziza Graves: "At some point, I'd be willing to talk with you, for sure."

Noyes: "Okay, great."

The ABC7 I-Team began investigating her case last year.

In an email to the I-Team's Dan Noyes, Graves explained she was using the self-checkout at a Safeway and "the machine said payment complete after putting in just one cent. I had to figure out how one cent could equal 100%." She sent this convoluted tabulation that concludes "the actual value of what we call a penny is .000001 credits or $100 million." Graves wrote, when she told the Safeway staff, "They said you are stealing and kicked me out. Target was next. I went to Target every single day for about a year before I was arrested."

At trial, Graves insisted she had no mental health issues, but her public defender, Scott Grant, argued she had a delusion - that she actually believed she had paid in full with that penny or a nickel. Graves is scheduled to be sentenced later this month - she faces three-and-a-half years in custody. She could get probation, a partial or full sentence in custody, or mental health rehabilitation.

"There's pretty wide latitude here for what the judge can do," Jenkins said. "And so we are prepared, we will be prepared to make a recommendation as to what we believe is appropriate, but it will ultimately be up to the judge."

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The jury acquitted Graves on one count, the one that had no surveillance video. The Public Defender's Office declined to comment on the verdict or directly on this case, but released a statement that says in part, "While we don't condone stealing, we cannot condone the ongoing surge of public resources being funneled into carceral punishment."

You can read the entire statement from San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju's office here:

Please note that this statement should be attributed to the SF Public Defender's Office and not Ms. Graves' attorney, as we do not have permission from our client to comment on her case:

San Francisco, like many U.S. cities, is in the throes of a retail theft panic that is built on false narratives. Property crimes in San Francisco are declining and have been occurring at a fraction of the rate they occurred in the 1990s. Property crimes are a direct reflection of poverty and desperation that has been caused by inflation, historic income inequality and a lack of affordable housing.

While we don't condone stealing, we cannot condone the ongoing surge of public resources being funneled into carceral punishment of those who are struggling to survive and on behalf of multibillion-dollar corporations.

Retail theft panic was spread by highly-publicized false statements by retailers that have since been retracted. The National Retail Federation received heavy media attention when it blamed "organized retail theft" for nearly half of all inventory losses in 2021, but later retracted the high-profile assertion, admitting to using incorrect data and a general lack of date on the issue. Despite claims about the impact of retail theft on businesses, the California Retailers Association has acknowledged there is no comprehensive, reliable data on theft.

Study after study demonstrates that harsher penalties-including for people with prior thefts-will not be effective at combating retail theft. What is effective is funding community-based services to open doors for housing, employment, job training, and education for people who have been impacted by the criminal legal system.

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