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Monday, August 13, 2012

Muni Cameras Help Exonerate Alleged Criminals, Too

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 4:31 PM

click to enlarge Not commit a crime
  • Not commit a crime

Turns out, Muni cameras aren't just there to catch crooks -- they are also there to prove some crimes never happened.

It was Muni that helped acquit 58-year-old Billy O'Neal of child abuse charges today; a San Francisco jury spent three hours watching and rewatching video footage that helped them decide that he did not bully and pinch a 11-year-old girl while riding the bus through the Western Addition last month.

On July 6, the young passenger on the inbound 5-Fulton told the bus driver that O'Neal had walked to the back of the bus, pinched her shoulder, shoved her out of her seat, and then called her a "stupid-ass kid."

Naturally, O'Neal got upset when he heard the kid's complaints, and got off the bus, yelling about how he had never touched a child. He walked to a bus stop at McAllister and Laguna streets in the Western Addition where he was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery and child abuse.

Although the girl stuck to her story throughout the trial, the video told a much different tale, according to the Public Defender's Office.

Here's what the Muni surveillance did show: O'Neal was seen carrying a large backpack walking to the back of the bus and taking an empty seat between the girl and an unidentified man. The girl looked at O'Neal, who was on his way to a homeless shelter, and left her seat, deciding to stand on the bus instead.

O'Neal, offended by the girl's actions, asked a female nearby if she was the girl's mother. At that point, the girl is seen walking up to the bus driver and telling the bus driver that O'Neal had assaulted her.

He clearly didn't. O'Neal, who has already spent a month in jail, was released today.

"Jury members didn't understand how this got to trial when the District Attorney had also seen the footage," said Deputy Public Defender J.P. Visaya. "One juror said it felt like they were on the show Punk'd."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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