Serial SF shoplifter accused of stealing $40K+ worth of items speaks for 1st time

Dan Noyes Image
Friday, March 8, 2024
SF woman accused of stealing $40K+ worth of items speaks for 1st time
Aziza Graves, accused of shoplifting from a San Francisco Target 120 times, is back in court amid frustrations over judges undercutting prosecutors.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Friday morning in a San Francisco courtroom, the case drags on for a woman accused of being a very prolific shoplifter. That type of crime has had a dramatic impact on our quality of life, and we wanted to explore why the criminal justice system seems to grind so slowly. Aziza Graves made headlines 2.5 years ago, accused of hitting the same Target store 120 times and stealing more than $40,000 worth of merchandise. We never saw her face or heard her side of the story - until now.

Researching one story sometimes leads to another. The I-Team's Dan Noyes interviewed San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins last October about the challenge of prosecuting car break-ins, especially by repeat offenders.

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Dan Noyes: "Are there certain judges who are more difficult in terms of getting a conviction in cases like this?"

Brooke Jenkins: "What I will say is, there are judges who will offer their own plea bargain to defendants of ours, they have the ability to do that."

Jenkins told us that judges sometimes undercut prosecutors and give defendants a better deal.

Jenkins: "We're having that happen in a case right now involving a repeat offender of theft."

Noyes: "Which case is that? Can you tell me what case that is?"

Jenkins: "Yes, I can tell you that - that is the Aziza Graves case."

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With that, the I-Team dove into the shoplifting case against 42-year-old Aziza Graves, pulled her case file, and met her in court.

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."

Her records show how the case developed. May 2021, security staff from the Stonestown Target met with District Attorney Chesa Boudin's office, complaining that Graves repeatedly stole from the store. Months passed with no arrest.

Then, Boudin faced accusations of being soft on crime. On November 9 of 2021, the Department of Elections confirmed that his opponents, including current DA Brooke Jenkins, had gathered enough signatures to force a recall election. The next week, Boudin sent this tweet: "Breaking News: SFDA Office operation results in arrest of prolific retail thief... more than 100 separate thefts... thank you to SFPD for assisting... more information coming soon."

Aziza Graves was arrested and released on her own recognizance, and a month later, ABC7 News anchor Ama Daetz announced on the news, "She has now been arrested again after being released last week. This time, Aziza Graves was taken into custody at Westfield San Francisco Centre mall on Saturday."

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The woman accused of stealing more than $40,000 worth of merchandise from a San Francisco Target has been arrested again after another theft.

The criminal complaint lists thefts from Abercrombie and Fitch, Safeway, and 120 thefts from the Stonestown Target store totaling more than $40,000. Authorities said Graves would often steal jugs of laundry detergent that can easily be sold in San Francisco's illegal night markets along Market Street.

That was 2021. Going on three years later, Aziza Graves has faced more than two dozen hearings. She's still on the streets and her shoplifting case is dragging on. Graves told the I-Team, "I don't think I should be on trial for anything right now."

Graves said she is homeless, sleeps on friends' couches, and that she has a hard time just surviving. Her public defender declined to comment.

Aziza Graves said, "Let me talk to this guy." We went outside the Hall of Justice for an interview. I started with a basic question.

Noyes: "So what do you want me to know about your case?"

Graves: "I just want you to know that I had no intention of -- I don't want to do this."

Noyes: "Change your mind?"

Graves: "Yes. This is stupid."

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In an email to the I-Team, 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 us a convoluted tabulation that concludes "the actual value of what we call a penny is .000001 credits or $100 million." Graves wrote that when she told the Safeway staff, "They said you are stealing and kicked me out."

Judge Brendan Conroy offered Graves a plea deal, reducing the 138 counts down to a single grand theft felony with a two-year sentence. With good behavior and time served, Aziza Graves could be out in about four months. The transcript shows Judge Conroy did that against the wishes of the public defender who said Graves is innocent, and the prosecution.

Retired Judge Richard Kramer told the I-Team, "That's just not the way it used to work. And it's not the way it should work."

Kramer was a San Francisco Superior Court Judge for almost 20 years, handling serious violent felonies and complex civil litigation. We asked him about Brooke Jenkins' frustration with judges like Brendan Conroy.

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Jenkins: "And they can sometimes undercut us in court and say, 'I've got a better offer for you.'"

Noyes: "Do you understand her frustration?"

Judge Richard Kramer: "Of course, I'm frustrated. Why do you think I'm living in Napa now? I lived in San Francisco forever."

Judge Kramer tells the I-Team -- in the car break-ins, the shoplifting, the stores leaving what used to be prime San Francisco real estate -- we are seeing the effect of social policies that emphasize rehabilitation for criminals, over public safety.

"The court system is not a parenting process," Kramer said. "It'd be nice if you could help people and you should, but only after you do what your main job is, which is enforcing the law and protecting the public."

There are a host of people who disagree with Judge Kramer, and say criminal justice reform is essential. Aziza Graves is back in court on Friday after the plea deal fell through. She's headed for more hearings and a trial unless something changes yet again.

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