While we all know that stealing is bad (duh), and can have serious consequences both for victims and thieves, stealing from a law-and-order elected official is likely to turn out notably worse for the thief. At least, as the Chronicle reports, that is the case in the aftermath of the December 2015 theft of Supervisor Scott Wiener's cell phone.
On December 18, 2015, Wiener was standing on the corner of 16th and Valencia, smartphone in hand. It was at that time that a woman allegedly grabbed his phone and demanded $500 for its return. She was not alone. "I told them that, for $500, they could just keep the phone," he explained to San Francisco Magazine.
He convinced the phone-snatcher to accept $200, and she and her male accomplice walked to an ATM. "It was an opportunity to get them on video," Wiener told the magazine. "She said if I yelled or gestured to anybody she'd mace me and she showed me a black canister. She indicated one of the guys had a gun."
Wiener got his phone back, and both the woman accused of stealing it and the man she was with were arrested shortly thereafter. That's where the story mostly ended for the Supervisor, but definitely not for 40-year-old LaSonya Wells and her 20-year-old son Damian Wells.
Ms. Wells was soon charged with kidnapping for ransom, and faced the possibility of life in prison. “Like thousands of San Franciscans who have had their phones snatched, it’s upsetting — but it’s not the crime of the century,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi told the Chronicle. “To see an otherwise ordinary case suddenly be elevated to life in prison is positively medieval. The fact that the DA was willing to have a low-level, nonviolent woman die in prison is extremely troubling.”
The Public Defender's office managed to get that charge dropped, but Ms. Wells, who's life spent battling depression, homelessness, domestic abuse, and substance abuse is touched upon by the paper, still faces two felony charges and two misdemeanor charges, including extortion and grand theft. If convicted, she will still likely spend many years in jail, which is prompting calls of prosecutorial overreach because of the victim in the case.
Back in December, Wiener told SF Mag that the theft of his phone was "not a very well-thought-out crime."
Now, as he prepares to testify in Wells' trial, set to begin August 26, Wiener simply says, "They committed a crime against me, they were apprehended, and they’re being prosecuted. I’m sure there will be a fair and just resolution."
The DA's office defends its initial charge of kidnapping for ransom as well, saying, that between January 2015 and July 2016, 13 robbery cases have included counts of kidnapping for ransom as well.