The highlight of this week's releases from the Public Defender's Office concerns the case of 41-year-old Santino Aviles, who was accused of robbery, attempted robbery, burglary, and assault with force, as well as a couple misdemeanor counts of assault and battery, all in connection with a loony, meth-fueled home invasion that occurred on May 31, 2014.
Aviles was suffering from major hallucinations as a result of methamphetamine psychosis that night when he entered a Mission Street building that he "believed resembled a spaceship docking station." He was under the impression that the planet was scheduled for imminent destruction and that he alone was going to access a spaceship via the roof of this building. I'll let the Public Defender's Office narrate the rest.
Hoping to be rescued, he rang the buzzer and was let inside by a building resident. When he tried to gain access to the roof, however, the same resident grew suspicious and told him to leave.
Still believing he was being pursued, Aviles climbed onto the fire escape and sought refuge in an apartment through an open window. He then took off his shoes and shirt and passed out on a couch.
After he awoke, he began hurriedly arranging his space travel, he testified. He threw the resident’s inflatable exercise ball onto the fire escape, planning to float with it through the galaxy, he testified.
He also put items he might need on the journey into the resident’s backpack, including a passport and an earthquake kit. The passport contained a photo of a woman who, like Aviles, had long dark hair. Aviles testified that he believed the passport would ensure his seat on the spaceship.
The resident and his girlfriend, who had been sleeping, awoke to find Aviles in the apartment. The resident tackled Aviles and began punching him, while his girlfriend struck Aviles with a baseball bat and called 911. Aviles suffered a black eye and other bruises, scratches and scrapes, while the resident suffered an injured toe and later developed a rash.
I don't know about you but if someone broke into my home while I was sleeping, while he was going through a psychotic episode, on meth, I'd certainly want him punished and perhaps kept off the meth for a few years. But in this case, public defenders were able to keep Aviles from having to serve as much as 14 years in prison for the felony "strikes," which they say represented gross over-charging on the part of the prosecutor.
Ultimately the jury found him not guilty of robbery, attempted robbery, or assault with force, and they hung on the count of burglary. He was found guilty only of the misdemeanor charges.
Public defender Jacque Wilson argued, "Mr. Aviles did not enter the building to rob or hurt anyone. This was not the act of a violent criminal but a frightened man in the midst of a mental health crisis."
Hopefully Aviles won't be seeking out a meth pipe anytime soon.