Believe it or not, a San Francisco jury sympathized with a man who was pissing off his neighbor for taking up too many parking spaces, an event that kicked off years of back-and-forth disputes.
According to the Public Defender's Office, the jury deliberated for less than an hour before concluding that 64-year-old William Kaiser was not guilty of criminal threats against his neighbor.
Kaiser was known as the "Car Guy" because he collected vintage cars, many of which he parked on the street. But his troubles began two years ago when one of this neighbors, who was also his friend of 13 years, started complaining about how the vintage cars were taking up too many parking spaces on the street.
Kaiser's neighborhood is one of the few areas in the city that offers free on-street parking and does not require residential parking permits, said Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray. But Kaiser's neighbor said he was sick of the cars and was planning to work with the city to change the way parking was regulated along Chenery Street. In other words, he was going to make damn sure Kaiser would have to move his cars.
This sparked a "bitter feud" between the neighbors, who continued bickering and threatening to call the police for the next two years.
Then on Aug. 26, 2012, Kaiser went to his neighbor's husband to talk about a confrontation the two had a day earlier. In that fight, the neighbor threatened to report Kaiser for trespassing after "Kaiser looked through a box of discarded books the neighbor had placed on the sidewalk," according to the Public Defender's Office. Kaiser told the man's husband he was going to call the cops anyway, because he was sure the neighbor had aimed his car at him.
After another heated exchange, the man accused Kaiser of harassment and told him to leave or he would call the police. Kaiser left, and the police were never called by any of the men.
However, a female neighbor who overheard the argument from her window approximately 15 feet away did pick up the phone and call the cops. When officers arrived, she explained to them that Kaiser had threatened to kill the neighbor -- twice. But when police questioned the man, he denied ever hearing Kaiser make these sort of criminal threats during their volatile exchange.
During the one-day trial, Kaiser took the stand as well as the neighbor, his husband, and the woman who called the police.
"The only explanation the prosecution could offer as to how the complaining witness wouldn't have heard a death threat shouted by a person standing so close to him was through the onset of 'hysterical deafness.' However, the existence of such a syndrome was not established in evidence, and the jury couldn't rely on it in reaching their verdict," Pray said.
If convicted, Kaiser could have spent up to a year in jail, and we're guessing he woulnd't have liked his neighbors there either.